Updated 12:53 p.m. - Mitt Romney found himself in a difficult position -- and on the receiving end of an attack by President Obama's campaign -- after an RNC official suggested the presumptive Republican nominee is "still deciding" on his position on immigration.
Bettina Inclan, the director of Hispanic outreach for the Republican National Committee, appeared to suggest the former Massachusetts governor's immigration position was still very much up in the air.
Rebecca Cook / Reuters
Mitt Romney addresses a crowd of supporters during a rally May 8.
"As a candidate, to my understanding, he's still deciding what his position on immigration is," Inclan said at a briefing for reporters on the party's outreach to Latinos.
The quote quickly exploded on Twitter, and the president's re-election campaign condemned the comment.
Inclan later tweeted that she had misspoken, and included a link to Romney's immigration policy.
"Over the past year Mitt Romney has proven time and time again that he is the most extreme presidential candidate in modern history on immigration," said Gabriela Domenzain, the Obama campaign's director of Hispanic press. "Mitt Romney has decided to be the most extreme presidential candidate on immigration; Hispanics and all Americans have heard it loud and clear."
Domenzain pointed in particular to the instances in the Republican primary in which Romney outflanked his opponents to their right. Romney had promised to veto the DREAM Act, and curiously suggested at a GOP presidential debate that his immigration policy involves "self-deportation."
Romney faces a serious deficit among Hispanic voters versus Obama, according to recent polling, a gap that means trouble for the Republican nominee this fall, and possibly spells long-term peril for the party.
That said, Romney has begun softening his language on immigration as he begins pivoting toward the general election. He said he's studying a proposal by Florida Sen. Marco Rubio -- a possible running mate for Romney -- to modify the DREAM Act to allow legal residency, but not citizenship, to illegal immigrants in a narrow set of circumstances.
Complicating matters for the Romney campaign, though, is the Obama campaign's uncontested advantage is Hispanic media. The president's campaign announced a second wave of Spanish-language radio and TV ads (focused on health care reform) on Tuesday.