CORAL GABLES, Fla. — Mitt Romney said Wednesday that he would represent “100%” of Americans, striving to dampen a controversy that has dogged him since Monday, when video surfaced of him saying nearly half the nation’s voters were dependent on the government and would never support him because he would not be able to convince them to take responsibility for their lives.
“My campaign is about the 100% in America. And I am concerned about them. I am concerned about the fact that over the past four years, life has become harder for Americans,” Romney said. “… this campaign is about helping people who need help, and right now, the people who are poor in this country need help getting out of poverty. The people in the middle class need help because their incomes have gone down every year for the last four years.”
The GOP presidential nominee spoke at a Univision forum where he was asked whether he regretted the statement he made to donors in a recording that was disclosed Monday by Mother Jones. He did not respond to that part of the question.
Much of the discussion focused on immigration, and reconciling positions that Romney took during the GOP primary with his current efforts to court Latino voters, a growing force in American politics that overwhelmingly votes Democratic.
Romney made no news on immigration policy, but he argued that President Obama had failed Latinos by not tackling immigration reform during his first year in office, as he said he would do while running for the Democratic nomination in 2008.
“I think one of the reasons candidate Obama got so much support from the Hispanic community in the last election is that he said in the first year, among his highest priorities would be to fix the immigration system. But he never even filed a bill,” Romney said. “He never even tried to fix the immigration system. So it’s time to put politics aside, and I will actually fix the immigration system and make it work for the people of America.”
Romney slammed Obama for using an executive order to allow some people who were brought into the country illegally when they were young to remain here legally, saying it was an election-year effort that failed to permanently fix the matter.
He declined to specify what he would do with these young people, but said that he does not believe in mass deportation and that he would allow those who joined the military to live in the country legally.
“We need a long-term solution,” Romney said. “… This is something that is going to have to be worked out by Republicans and Democrats together.”
Reminded of statements that he made during the primaries--that the controversial Arizona immigration law is a model for the nation, and that illegal immigrants should self-deport--Romney said that people have the right to decide whether to return to their native countries to stand in line for legal immigration
“The reason there is an Arizona law, is because the federal government and specifically President Obama didn’t solve the immigration problem when he came into office, and so states are doing their best to try and solve it state by state and each state tries to solve it in their own way,” Romney said. “But the right answer is ultimately to have a federal solution to make sure we have a robust and active legal immigration system, that we stop illegal immigration and that we don’t have to have states trying to find solutions on their own.”
The Obama campaign charged that Romney was not being specific.
“Mitt Romney is wrong on issues of importance to the Hispanic community,” spokeswoman Lis Smith said in a statement. “On critical issues, he continued to refuse to answer any of the tough questions or provide any specifics on what he’d do as president.… It’s time for Mitt Romney to come clean and get specific about his policies.”