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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Mel Martinez, champion of immigration reform and once critic of Romney, now defends Romney



martinez.jpgFormer Florida Sen. Mel Martinez used a conference call this afternoon to defend Romney's harder shift on immigration, saying himself and other architects of the failed comprehensive immigration reform bill in 2007 misread public sentiment.

"We really, at the time, I think made a mistake in not understanding just how passionate the American people felt about the issue of securing the border," said Martinez, who was disputing Romney is a flip-flopper.

Romney at one point lined up with Martinez, but his position changed as he ran for president in 2008, according to a Bloomberg story today. Martinez, who was backing John McCain, even criticized Romney and Rudy Giuliani. “They are wrong on that and they are wrong in just criticizing,” he said. “I wish that as presidential candidates, they would take the next step, which is to say: here is how I would solve the problem.”

Romney has maintained his posture, saying in the last debate that amnesty is a "magnet" for other illegal immigrants.

But Martinez, who has participated this year in White House talks on immigration, minimized that today. "I understand Mitt Romney to be a fair-minded, decent person," he said. "I'm not concerned about what may be some difference in nuances ... ."

The conference call, joined by state Sen. John Thrasher, was in response to the DNC's new attack ad over Mitt Romney's changing stance on several key positions. Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who doubles as DNC chair, held a conference call with reporters and pretty much called him a liar.

She said she tells her children not to fib because, "Keeping track of all the lies gets a little tiring and difficult."

The ad will run in Albuquerque, Raleigh-Durham; Columbus, O.H.; Pittsburgh; Washington, D.C.; and, Milwaukee.

"A lot of this ad talks about the life issue," Martinez said in today's call. "I’m pro-life, and I would much rather have a President Romney over a President Obama when it came to that issue."

[Last modified: Monday, November 28, 2011 4:59pm]


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