Romney on immigrants: Stay tuned

  • Article by: DAN BALZ , Washington Post
  • Updated: June 17, 2012 - 9:41 PM

He criticized Obama's immigration decision, but wouldn't say whether he would reverse it.

NEWARK, OHIO - Mitt Romney criticized President Obama's decision to stop deporting some illegal immigrants who were brought to the United States as children as an election-year political move, but he repeatedly declined in an interview Sunday to lay out an alternative plan.

The presumptive Republican presidential nominee said he wants a "long-term solution," unlike what he derided as Obama's "stopgap measure," but would not say what it would entail other than to provide permanent residency to those who serve in the military.

"With regards to these kids who were brought in by their parents through no fault of their own, there needs to be a long-term solution so they know what their status is," Romney said on CBS's "Face the Nation."

Romney's struggle to offer a clear alternative on the immigration issue was a fresh reminder of one of the challenges he faces, which is to go beyond his steady criticism of the president with a more detailed description of the policies he would implement to replace what Obama has done.

Romney is midway through a bus tour of six battleground states and on Sunday, he stumped across the most critical of all, Ohio. He spoke at a pancake breakfast in Brunswick and a rally in the town square of Newark and then campaigned with House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, at a hamburger restaurant in Troy.

But his speeches were short and general. At the rally in Newark, Romney revved up a couple of thousand supporters by promising to "shock the world with how our economy's coming back," but in a speech that clocked at just nine minutes, he offered only broad outlines and few specifics.

Those specifics included developing U.S. energy resources, cutting back on government regulation of business -- including repeal of Obama's health care law -- and putting the country on track toward a balanced budget.

Stuart Stevens, Romney's chief campaign strategist, acknowledged that voters want to know more about what a Romney presidency would be like. But he took issue with critics who have said the Republican hasn't offered details about how his presidency would differ from Obama's.

"As the campaign goes on, you'll have more specifics," Stevens told reporters after the Newark rally. "But I think that Governor Romney has been more specific than the president on most of these big issues." He cited Romney's proposals on Social Security and Medicare as two examples, but he begged off questions about immigration and how Romney would balance the budget.

Stevens said voters have a clear sense of Obama. "They know how they feel about this president," he said. "They know what they've experienced the last 3 1/2 years, and they're disappointed."

But he acknowledged that many of these same voters don't know Romney well. "We hear the same thing," he said.

The campaign's response has been an opening round of ads that describe, in general terms, what the candidate would do in the opening stages of his presidency.

The renewed spotlight on immigration comes as Romney tries to narrow Obama's wide lead among Hispanic voters. The candidates will address a national group of Hispanic officials this week in Orlando, where Romney will face pressure to further define his position.

On CBS, when anchor Bob Schieffer asked Romney whether he would repeal Obama's new immigration policy, he said: "Well, it would be overtaken by events, if you will, by virtue of my putting in place a long-term solution, with legislation which creates law that relates to these individuals such that they know what their setting is going to be, not just for the term of a president but on a permanent basis."

Romney suggested that Obama's decision had been motivated by politics, not policy.

"If he felt seriously about this, he should have taken action when he had a Democrat House and Senate, but he didn't," Romney said. Campaign politics, he added, was "certainly a big part of the equation."

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