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“I refused to keep looking young people in the eye, deserving young people in the eye, and tell them, ‘Tough luck, politics is too hard,’” he said.
The speech cemented a strategy Democrats and the Obama campaign have already been pursuing: They have no intention of letting up on an advantage that has them winning the Hispanic vote by 2-to-1 margins in some polls.
Obama strategist David Axelrod said Friday on a conference call with reporters that Romney “danced with the devil on this issue in order to become the Republican nominee. ... He’s made his bet.”
Axelrod dismissed the idea that Obama would face a backlash from voters worried about competition for jobs from immigrants, saying there is “a consensus” across the country that upstanding people brought here as children should be allowed to stay.
In his Thursday speech to Latino leaders, Romney shifted to a more welcoming tone than during the primaries, where he ran to the right of other candidates, used the term “self-deport,” and frequently decried “amnesty.” But his speech largely ignored the issue of the
11 million or 12 million illegal immigrants already in the United States, and he continued to duck the question of whether the “DREAMers” Obama has temporarily shielded from deportation should stay in the United States. He said he would put in place a long-term plan without saying what that would be. His one concession on the issue is that he would “stand up” for a path to citizenship for young illegal immigrants who serve in the military. Romney also expanded on his earlier calls for easier legal immigration, including proposing reallocating green cards to the immediate family members of legal immigrants already in the United States.
Romney received polite applause from the audience but a warm response from elected Republicans. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who had earlier this week deferred to Romney for guidance on how to respond to the issue, said he applauded “Gov. Romney’s commitment to working to improve our broken immigration system.”
McConnell added, “America has been, and remains, a welcoming country for legal immigration. But the president’s last-minute, election-year ploy can’t erase the fact that he has failed to lead.”
The Romney campaign also sent out statements of support from Latinos backing his campaign.
“The economic vibrancy of our nation’s Hispanic community has been crushed by the burdensome regulations, uncompetitive tax code, and anti-business policies promulgated by the Obama Administration over the past three and a half years,” said Hector Barreto, chairman of the board of the Latino Coalition. “Governor Romney is dedicated to stopping President Obama’s attack on free enterprise and removing bureaucratic red tape and barriers to job creation for small businesses.”
And the Romney camp cited quotes from Obama before the Latino group four years earlier, when he talked of creating new jobs and ending the housing crisis. “No election-year speech can cover up the president’s job-killing policies that have led to 11 percent Hispanic unemployment and millions of Hispanics living in poverty,” Romney spokeswoman Amanda Henneberg said.