Obama adviser: Mitt Romney had "unintentionally revealing moment" over illegal immigration in GOP debate

Republican presidential candidates former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, left, and Texas Gov. Rick Perry speak during a Republican presidential debate Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2011, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)
Chris Carlson

Republican presidential frontrunner Mitt Romney had an "unintentionally revealing moment" regarding illegal immigration during Tuesday's night's GOP debate, David Axelrod, President Obama's chief re-election campaign strategist, said Wednesday on CBS' "The Early Show."

Immigration policy was a hot topic in the debate last night, particularly when Texas Gov. Rick Perry criticized Romney for using a landscaping company that employed undocumented immigrants several years ago.

Romney, who was criticized for this incident in the 2008 presidential race, responded that he fired the gardeners after he found out about their immigration status.

"We went to the company and we said, look, you can't have any illegals working on our property," he said. "I'm running for office, for Pete's sake, I can't have illegals."

Axelrod pointed out that Romney said, "not that it was wrong or not that it was illegal, I'm running for office."

"I thought that was the most unintentional revealing moment of the debate," he said."Time and time again, Gov. Romney switches from one position to another apparently because he is running."

Axelrod added that this reveals why Romney has failed to garner the support of more than just a quarter of the Republican electorate in polls.

"I think is there a sense there is no core to him," Axelrod said. He said that Romney wanted his Massachusetts health care plan to serve as a model for nationwide health care reform, though Romney now says he didn't.

While Romney's support in the polls seems to be stuck at around 25 percent, he remains the frontrunner in the GOP field. As Republican voters consider the candidates, the Obama campaign has been targeting Romney as if he is already the nominee.

Axelrod said Wednesday, "It's going to be a close election... This is a closely divided country, and we are in a tough economy."

Still, he added, "I am very confident we will win because the president has a vision about how we get people back to work but also how we restore the security that the middle class has lost in this country for a long period of time."