Republican officials tentatively admitted the party has a problem with Latino voters in a Tuesday press conference call that was meant to tout the party's new Hispanic outreach program.
"What we've seen is some Hispanics feel [that] the Republican Party isn't doing enough to include them in what we're doing, to reach out to them," said Bettina Inclan, the RNC's Hisapnic Outreach Director. "What we're trying to do is rebuild that relationship."
Their message: "Not only do we care about you, but we want to include you."
But while the team of swing-state outreach coordinators — six in all — talked up their social media efforts and economic message, Inclan seemed to hint that they had a blind spot on one of the most crucial issues for the Hispanic community: Mitt Romney's position on immigration.
"I think as a candidate, to my understanding, he's still deciding what his position on immigration is. I can't talk about what his position is going to be," Inclan said.
After her comments were widely tweeted, RNC press secretary Kirsten Kukowski clarified that Romney has only been the party's nominee for a few weeks, and that they're just beginning to coordinate with his campaign.
"We are going to be able to talk about Mitt Romney's position," Kukowski said. "Right now, what we are here to talk about is what our outreach [efforts] are going to be. I would ask that you give us a little time."
Romney has yet to release an official proposal, but he has taken a hard line on immigration, pledging to veto the DREAM Act, and advocating for an elimination of educational and other benefits for undocumented immigrants in order to prompt "self-deportation."
Pressed on whether Romney's positions would turn off Hispanic voters, Inclan pushed back hard.
"Most Hispanics were born here in this country, we are American citizens," she said. "To assume the only thing we care about is immigration is almost insulting."
But the GOP's push in recent years for a crackdown on illegal immigrants has created a branding problem for the party — one the RNC hopes to fix this cycle.
Correction: This story originally misattributed a quote from Kukowski to Inclan. The current version is correct.
McKay Coppins is a senior writer for the BuzzFeed News politics team, and the author of The Wilderness, about the battle over the future of the Republican Party.
Contact McKay Coppins at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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