Hours after Mitt Romney’s campaign promised that the GOP nominee would begin to offer new policy prescriptives, Romney stumped in Los Angeles on Monday at a gathering of Latino business leaders, promising to cut federal spending, help small businesses and reform a “broken” immigration system. But he offered no new details on how he would accomplish these goals.
On immigration, Romney reiterated his past positions on the matter -- that he opposed amnesty, that the border must be secured and that employers who knowingly hire illegal immigrants must be punished -- but did not say what exactly he would do with the estimated 12 million people who are living in the nation illegally.
“Like so many issues confronting our nation, when it comes to immigration, politics has been put ahead of people for far too long,” Romney told 1,400 people at a meeting of the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. “I will work with Republicans and Democrats to permanently fix our immigration system.”
Romney was speaking at a fraught time in his campaign, amid questions about whether his economy-focused message is flailing and whether the candidate can recover after a series of missteps, most recently an ill-timed and inaccurate response to attacks on American embassies in Egypt and Libya.
Romney and his advisors have frequently said in the past that the candidate would refrain from offering certain specifics to avoid giving his rivals ammunition. But Monday morning, after a weekend of leaked grievances among his top advisors, top campaign officials told reporters that Romney would now begin offering new specifics about taxes and the economy.
“We think the American people are looking forward to hearing how we can turn our economy around; they’re open to hearing our proposals on this front,” Romney senior advisor Ed Gillespie said during a campaign conference call. The campaign’s research, he said, shows that voters are looking for specific answers about how Romney’s policies will make their lives better.
Gillespie said voters know Romney has a plan, but would like to know a little bit more about the specifics. “We think there’s a demand out there for that,” he said.
But Romney’s speech Monday largely stuck to his traditional campaign remarks, centered on a five-point plan to increase job creation and right the nation’s economy.
The lack of specificity was noted by Hispanic Chamber Chief Executive Javier Palomarez, who said, “I would have loved to hear a little more detail about how he plans to help American businesses, but I understand he had limited time.”
Latinos overwhelmingly favor Democrats, as seen in a poll released Monday that found 68% of Latinos are likely or leaning toward voting for President Obama, compared with 26% for Romney.
Romney is making a push for these voters, conducting interviews with Spanish-language media and arguing that Latinos in particular have suffered under Obama’s handling of the economy.
“No one is exempt from the pain of this economy, but the Hispanic community has been particularly hard hit,” Romney said, noting that while national unemployment is 8.1%, for Latinos, it is more than 10%, and that more than 2 million Latinos have entered poverty since Obama took office. “In 2008, candidate Obama promised us a world of limitless hope. What we got instead is a world where hope has painful limits -- limits that make it harder to start a business, to grow a business, or to find a job.”
Democrats hit back, with the Obama campaign holding a press conference outside the chamber event with local Latino elected officials, who argued that Romney’s plans were nothing less than a throwback to the policies of President George W. Bush, and reminding voters of some of the strident statements Romney made during the GOP primary about immigration.
“We’re here to underscore the reality that regardless of what Mitt Romney may choose to say in that room, the record is clear that the Romney-Ryan ticket is a clear pathway back to the failed policies that caused the worst financial crises in generations,” said California Assembly Speaker John Perez. “The Romney-Ryan ticket reflects the wrong path for America and certainly the wrong path for the Latino community.”