A top House Democrat on Friday made an unusual comparison in describing Mitt Romney’s struggle to woo Hispanic voters, arguing that the first step for the former Massachusetts governor, as for an alcoholic, is to acknowledge that he has a problem.

House Democratic Caucus Vice-Chairman Xavier Becerra (Calif.) (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

“You’re not going to get rid of that disease that infects you if you don’t treat it and you don’t believe it,” he added.

Becerra is the No. 5 Democrat in the House. His comments come as polls show Romney trailing President Obama among Hispanic voters by as much as a 45-percentage-point margin, and as the presumptive GOP nominee is working to court Hispanics through a new Spanish-language TV ad and an event this week with business leaders.

Romney’s campaign responded to the remarks in a statement to Univision:

“These comments are unfortunate, but they aren’t surprising given the desperate and negative reelection campaign President Obama is running,” responded Romney adviser Albert Martinez. “Democrats are lashing out with outrageous rhetoric because they’re frustrated at the reality that President Obama broke his promise to Hispanic voters while his party controlled Congress.”