As I noted last week, illegal immigration may be the issue that Mitt Romney believes will finally knock Rudy Giuliani from his first-place perch (after all, it was the issue that stopped John McCain).
Of course, Giuliani realizes the potency of this hot-button issue, and is taking proactive steps to prevent it from derailing his campaign. Today, for example, Rudy was in South Carolina to talk about his plan to end illegal immigration (as part of his "12 commitments.")
But Giuliani's campaign isn't content to play defense. Today, they went on the offensive, questioning Romney's credentials on the issue.
According to ABC News:
Giuliani's campaign said that Romney's aggressive charge on this issue is inconsistent with Romney's record. While governor of Massachusetts from 2003 until 2007, three cities in Romney's home state -- Somerville, Cambridge, and Orleans -- either declared or reissued declarations stating that they are in essence sanctuary cities.
And Giuliani wasn't alone in criticizing Romney; A Democrat Mayor also questioned Romney's sincerity on the issue of sanctuary cities:
"Romney's being a hypocrite on this issue," said Joseph Curtatone, the Democratic mayor of Somerville since 2004. "I did not receive any mandate, any communication, anything at all from him about this. If it's so important to him why didn't he have the state police enforcing it?"
Romney aides talk about the governor's agreement with the federal government to allow Massachusetts state troopers to arrest and seek the deportation of illegal immigrants. What they don't emphasize, however, is the fact that that agreement was reached in the closing days of his term, in December 2006, and was immediately rescinded by his replacement, Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick. The 30 state troopers initially assigned to receive specialized training from the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency never received their training.
As the gloves continue to come off in the race for the GOP nomination, one thing is for certain: The immigration issue will play a key role in the debate for '08.