(CNN) – Just over a year after Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney battled in the first primaries for the GOP presidential nomination, the former House speaker on Wednesday blasted his ex-political foe for advocating an immigration policy of “self-deportation” during the campaign.
“I said we're not going to deport grandmothers who've been here for 25 years. Romney came and said, ‘Well they'll self-deport,’” Gingrich said on CNN’s “The Situation Room.”
“That is the most anti-human phrase you can imagine,” said the Georgian.
Gingrich’s comments come as the GOP grapples with its image among Latinos, especially on the topic of immigration. President Barack Obama overwhelmingly won among the voting bloc, 71% to 27%, and now Republicans are part of a national push to reform the country’s immigration system.
At a debate last January, Romney said he was in favor of "self-deportation," a policy that involves creating barriers for undocumented workers so that they choose to leave the country to find better opportunities. Romney has since been roundly criticized for his position, even more so from his own party after the election loss.
Asked who was to take the blame for the Republican nominee’s lack of popularity among Latinos, Gingrich said “you have to blame Mitt Romney.”
“You think a grandmother is going to self-deport? Leave her children and grandchildren?” Gingrich said, arguing that such a position creates outreach problems for the GOP. “That's why we didn't just lose Latinos. We lost Asian-Americans by a bigger margin than we lost Hispanics.”
Gingrich said the party’s message on immigration is honest and sometimes candid, but the GOP could perhaps tweak its tone on the issue.
“I think it was very unfortunate and frankly helped cost us the election,” he said.
As for his own position on immigration, Gingrich said he is "modestly encouraged" by the bipartisan group of eight senators who outlined their framework for immigration reform, which includes tighter border security and a pathway to citizenship. However, Gingrich doesn't think a comprehensive bill can get passed.
"I think you can pass even or eight bills that together form a comprehensive reform," he said, saying a bigger bill will lead to more delays, red tape and less transparency.
While he said Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, who’s part of the so-called “Gang of Eight” is “ moving us in the right direction,” he just doesn’t want to see lawmakers “get pushed into a corner where you have to once again say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to some 1,700 pages."
The former speaker was one of the first Republican commentators to take to the airwaves after the election and call for change on the issue. The morning after Election Day, Gingrich argued the party needed to improve on not only reaching out, but being more inclusive.
"The difference between outreach and inclusion is outreach is when five white guys have a meeting and call you," he said on CNN. "Inclusion is when you're in the meeting."
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