The Last Word | June 18, 2012
>>> way back last week, mitt romney planned to just talk about the economy on his swing state bus tour, while relying on senator marco rubio to pretend to be working on a legislative dream-like fix of romney 's problem with the latino vote, but then on friday, president obama said this.
>> over the next few months, eligible individuals who do not present a risk to national security or public safety will be able to request temporary relief from deportation proceedings and apply for work authorization.
>> the very next day, mitt romney taped an interview with bob schieffer , which included a very predictable question.
>> would you repeal this order if you became president?
>> well, let's step back and look at the issue.
>> well, what would you do about it?
>> well, as you know, he was president for the last 3 1/2 years and did nothing on immigration .
>> but would you repeal this?
>> well, it would be overtaken by events, if you will, by virtue of me putting in place a long-term solution.
>> i won't keep on about this, but just to make sure that i understand, would you leave this in place while you worked out a long-term solution, or would you just repeal it --
>> we'll look at that setting as we reach that.
>> that's the brave leader of the republican party talking. mitt romney obviously has no idea on how to lead his party on immigration issues after a presidential primary campaign that was all about how long and how high and how electrified and how lethal a fence you will build to keep people from crossing our southern border and how many of them will you pledge to deport. but mitt romney does know how important the latino vote is. as reported here back in april, mitt romney spoke at a private palm beach fund-raiser, just loud enough to be heard outside on a public sidewalk by nbc news' garrett hake. romney told his audience, "we have to get hispanic voters to vote for our party," warning that recent polling showing that hispanics breaking in huge percentages for president obama "spells doom for us." joining me now are msnbc steve kornacki and joy reid. joy, the idea that the romney campaign staff -- this to me is a serious campaign staff issue. you send him into that interview and you've given him absolutely no suggestion about how to handle the most predictable question. that is political malpractice by the romney campaign staff .
>> yeah, i absolutely agree. because they knew --
>> let's just understand, romney doesn't believe anything. it's not like you can go, we'll send him toout there, and worst-case scenario, we'll go with what he thinks, because he doesn't think anything. you've got to set him up to answer that question.
>> absolutely. the white house campaign slogan could be, just make me president and we'll work out the details later. mitt romney is not the leader of the republican party , he's waiting for the actual leaders of the party to tell him what's acceptable to say. he has the problem with the base, they don't trust him. he can't sound too moderate, because the tea party base would rebel, but then again, he has to still mouth the words about immigration reform , because he's afraid -- look, he's at 27% with hispanics. that is a losing proposition no matter how you look at it.
>> and he knows it. that's what we heard him say at that fund-raiser. let's listen to what he said at nbc news debate in florida .
>> if you don't deport them, how do you send them home?
>> the answer is self-deportation, which is that people decide that they can do better by going home , because they can't find work here, because they don't have legal documentation to allow them to work here.
>> steve , presidential campaigns produce memorable phrases. "self-deportation" was the easiest two-word thing to remember after that particular debate, and certainly there are people in the latino community who heard that and remember it well.
>> and that remember, that terms, as ridiculous as it was, but also remember how far to the right romney was in the primaries. think of the political imperative for romney at the time. he was so distrusted by the base, the only issue that was really logical for him to get to the right of gingrich, of santorum, of perry, of all his opponents was on immigration . so he really took advantage of it one of the few times he could be the conservative candidate. but he had an opportunity, the interesting thing about what we're seeing right now, it looked like for the last few weeks that immigration was actually going to be the issue that the romney campaign used to sort of defy the stereotype of the spineless opportunist who's afraid to tell you what he really thinks. marco rubio was going to come out and propose essentially what obama did on friday. romney was going to get behind it and there were signs from immigration groups that they were actually going to be okay with it. so they had the prospect here of romney endorsing this, doing away with the problem he had with hispanic voters, and maybe getting credit for being a strong leader too if momentum built behind the idea. instead, obama completely steals his thunder on friday, talk about the timing. it's almost like the obama white house knew that romney was 24 hours away from giving his first non-fox sunday show interview and they went and dropped this bomb.
>> well, bill kristol certainly understands the politics of this from a republicans' perspective. let's listen to what he said about it.
>> i think it's a sensible policy. i think that would be much better if that were the law of the land . i think this is a big problem for romney and he needs to stake the lead on this, and erase marco rubio 's dream act , if that's what he want, and say, let's pass this this congress over the next few months and say, this is what i'm for.
>> a little too late.
>> a little too late. and karl rove doesn't have a lot of positive attributes, but he does understand the math. and the math is that barack obama won the presidency with 41% of the white vote. republicans would lucky to ever get 10% of the black vote again having coddled birthers and a lot of other things that republicans find repugnant. the hispanic vote is the one sort of opportunity for republicans, but if you look at the top 20 states where the latino vote share is growing the fastest, 11 of them are already swing states . number 21 is texas. we're talking about nevada, colorado, florida . states that are critical for republicans to be able to regain the white house . ohio, even indiana. you cannot win long-term as a republican if you cannot grow your base beyond the white vote. and the hispanic vote was the one opportunity, and now even marco rubio is semi-irrelevant. i mean, is there even a point --
>> steve , let's listen to what rubio actually said about this and then we'll react to that.
>> i think he could have worked with the congress to try to get something balanced done, like something i'm working on. the white house never called us about this. no one reached out to us and told us this was on its way.
>> there's a leader for you. the white house never called me. i want to be vice president, but the white house never called me and said, i, as a senator, should really try to get something done.
>> so marco rubio wants to be vice president. if you're the romney campaign and you're looking at this guy and saying, where were you for the last two months? we are waiting for you, the most prominent national latino leader in the republican party to come out and put this simple piece of legislation together, outlining what obama just did, and then i, mitt romney , will come there and say, this is what i'm for. and all these immigration groups will come behind it, and rubio did nothing. and now he's sitting here basically saying today, you know what, i'm not even going to do it at all. so this was the big moment. rubio was the key guy, and he basically sat on his hands.
>> rubio looks in that particular video, he looks too small to me for the vice presidential job, in a number of ways. i mean, he would have to be a really dynamic guy to sell beyond conservative republicans, it seems to me.
>> you're absolutely right. and rubio, i think is more of a confection of the press. the media loves marco rubio .
>> and he may be that guy in ten years, but not that guy.
>> not right now. rubio has the same fundamental problem that romney does. marco rubio wants to be a singular leader of the republican party , but he too is beholden to that tea party base. that's how he got elected. he had to walk a very thin line in florida , because when he was speaker of the florida house , he was considered soft on immigration . so he, too, had to take a hard line against the dream act , against sort of reasonable immigration reform . so he's in the same box romney 's in.
>> steve kornacki and joy reid, thank you both very much for joining me tonight.
>>> coming up, in a "last word" exclusive, the tony award -winning author of "the vagina monologues " will join us along with the latest star of "the vagina monologues ," who was banned for speaking on the house floor after she dared to use the word "vagina." that state representative actually performed "the vagina monologues " on the steps of the state capital tonight