Republican candidate Mitt Romney believes that he would have a better shot at beating President Barack Obama and winning the election if his parents were Mexican, according to a story from magazine Mother Jones.
In a video secretly recorded from a fundraising dinner at a private donor's home, Romney is reported to have joked that "had [my father] been born of Mexican parents, I'd have a better shot of winning this."
"But he was unfortunately born to Americans living in Mexico," Romney quipped. "He lived there for a number of years. I mean, I say that jokingly, but it would be helpful to be Latino."
The comment is the latest controversy emerging from the video of the event reportedly held in May at the home of private equity manager Marc Leder in Boca Raton, Florida. Though the publication has yet to publish video of the Mexican remark, other videos show Romney talking candidly about other issues such as his take on the 47% of Obama voters, his consultants, his strategy to win the election, Israel-Palestine, and the economy.
Romney has been widely criticized for saying: “There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims.”
On Monday, Romney did not apologize for his comments but clarified that his statements were not "elegantly stated" and were spoken "off the cuff."
Democrats, however, immediately pounced on Romney's joke about winning the presidency if he was Latino.
"The insult of all insults, Mitt Romney says if he was Latino he would win the presidential election, as if being Latino would have given him any advantage to win the White House," Rep. Xavier Becerra, (D-Cal.) told the Associated Press in Spanish. "I have news for Mr. Romney: it has nothing to do with your ethnic origin, it has to do with your values."
The Romney campaign responded Tuesday to the Mexican comment.
“Governor Romney's joking comment is proof that he recognizes that Hispanics are critically important to the future of the Republican Party, and our country," Yohana de la Torre, a Romney for President Spokesperson said.
"When one considers that every single Hispanic governor in the country is a Republican, that every single Hispanic who was elected to the U.S. House in the last cycle is a Republican, and that Senator Marco Rubio is one of the stars that shines brightest in our party, it is easy to understand why the Governor would want to share the spotlight with them.”
For months, Romney and his campaign have boasted about his Mexican roots in Spanish-language ads and in speeches targeting the immigrant community. Romney's parents were American, but his father was born in Mexico.
Critics of Romney's immigration stance and tone accuse the campaign of pandering to Latino voters by playing up Romney's father's immigrant story. Many feature Romney's youngest son, Craig, speaking in Spanish about his grandfather's immigrant past.
"My grandfather George was born in Mexico," Craig Romney said in an ad released August 27. "For my family, the greatness of the United States is how we all respect and help one another. It's the dedication, the sacrifice, and the work from those trying for the America dream for their families."
In January, a political satirical twitter account, @MexicanMitt, an unsympathetic Latino alter ego, launched after a similar ad aired in Florida.
Romney's father, George Romney, was born in Colonia Dublan, Mexico and moved to the United States at the age of 5. Mitt Romney has spoken of how his father never graduated from college but eventually went on to become an auto executive, the governor of Michigan and a Republican presidential candidate in the 1970s.
Romney's great-grandfather Miles Park Romney, who was a Mormon like Mitt Romney, fled the U.S. to the Chihuahua desert in Mexico in 1885 seeking refuge from U.S. anti-polygamy laws. Romney's grandfather, Gaskell Romney, also settled in Mexico.
"I have spoken often of how proud I am of my father," Romney said Monday to the US Hispanic Commerce of Business in Los Angeles, California. "He was born to American parents who were living in Mexico, when he was 5 they left everything behind and started over again in the United States. My dad grew up poor."
Questions of whether being Latino could have an impact on the 2012 race came to the forefront when the Romney campaign began to consider Cuban-American Florida Senator Marco Rubio as the Republican vice presidential nominee.
A Fox News Latino poll of 1,200 likely Latino voters in March found that 34 percent of Latino voters would vote Republican if there was a Latino vice president while 51 percent said it would make no difference in their decision.