Hispanics are the focus as the race for the White House moves to Florida, a presidential battleground where a charged immigration debate is under way as US President Barack Obama seeks to keep his Republican challenger, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, on the defensive.
Facing a Spanish-speaking audience on Wednesday night, Romney was again forced to reiterate his commitment to all Americans following the release of remarks captured on video in which he said, as a candidate, “my job is not to worry about” the 47 percent of Americans who do not pay income taxes and believe they are “victims” entitled to government help.
“My campaign is about the 100 percent in America,” Romney said at a Miami forum on Wednesday broadcast by the Spanish-language television network Univision.
The Republican nominee later declared that the Republican Party “is the natural home for Hispanic Americans because this is the party of opportunity and hope.”
Obama and Romney were crisscrossing Florida yesterday, with their travel plans nearly overlapping in Miami. Romney was departing the city for fundraisers and a rally in Sarasota yesterday morning a few hours before Air Force One was to touch down in South Florida.
The president was speaking yesterday at the same Univision forum, where the Democratic incumbent was expected to face difficult questions about the strength of the nation’s economy and his unfulfilled pledge to overhaul the nation’s immigration system.
The focus on the growing US Hispanic population comes with the election less than seven weeks away. While polls suggest the race is very close, Romney has struggled through a series of missteps in recent weeks that prompted vocal concern from Republicans about the direction of the campaign.
Battling the perception that he is not working hard enough, Romney yesterday announced plans to launch a three-day bus tour across Ohio next week.
Obama’s campaign has repeatedly brought up Romney’s opposition to the so-called DREAM Act, which would offer a pathway to citizenship for young immigrants who came to the US illegally as children, but have since attended school or served in the military. Obama supported the measure, which remains stalled in Congress.
Romney largely avoided detailing his immigration plans on Wednesday, despite repeated questions from Univision hosts.
He downplayed his support earlier in the year for policies that would promote “self-deportation” of illegal immigrants, while suggesting he might favor legal status for young immigrants who serve in the military or pursue higher education.
“I’m not in favor of a deportation — mass deportation — effort, rounding up 12 million people and kicking them out of the country,” Romney said. “I believe people make their own choices as to whether they want to go home, and that’s what I mean by self-deportation.”