MIAMI, Florida — The day after being hammered on his immigration policy in last night’s CNN debate, GOP front-runner Mitt Romney seemed to back off a key piece of his proposal, or at least the rhetoric he uses to describe it. Romney has called for making life so difficult on undocumented immigrants that they “self-deport,” but speaking at the Hispanic Leadership Network conference here today, Romney backed off that language. After summarizing his immigration proposal, Romney said:
ROMNEY: I call that — or other people call that ‘self deportation.’
It was the only time he uttered the words “self-deportation” in his speech today. Romney’s softening may have to do with the fact that Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL), who supports Romney, disapproved of the “self-deportation” rhetoric. “It was frankly a bad choice of words,” Diaz-Balart told Yahoo! News’ Liz Goodwin.
After Romney’s speech, ThinkProgress spoke with former GOP senator Norm Coleman, a special adviser to Romney’s campaign, who said the candidate was not backing off his “self-deportation” policy, though may be evolving the messaging on it. “I don’t think it was a backing off,” Coleman said of Romney’s comments, “I don’t think it was a strategic decision.” “I simply think it was — it’s one of the good things about this process, is that you do have the chance to say here’s what I meant. You get challenged on it, you come back and say, no don’t paint me with that broad brush.”