Mitt Romney, in an interview aired Sunday, repeatedly refused to say that he would overturn President Obama's new policy allowing some young illegal immigrants to stay in the United States. He contended that Obama's decision was political, while senior White House adviser David Plouffe said the move wasn't motivated by politics.
The Republican presidential candidate was asked three times in an interview on CBS' "Face the Nation" whether he would overturn the executive order issued Friday if he's elected in the fall. He refused to directly answer.
"It would be overtaken by events," Romney said when pressed for the second time by moderator Bob Schieffer during the interview taped Saturday while the former Massachusetts governor's bus tour stopped in Pennsylvania.
He explained that the order would become irrelevant "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's Rust Belt tour swept through Ohio on Sunday. He attended a Father's Day pancake breakfast with two of his sons and five of his 18 grandchildren. He told a rain-soaked crowd that the weather was a metaphor for the country and that "three and half years of dark clouds are about to part." At a second event in Newark, near Columbus, Romney told a cheering crowd that the president's slogan had changed.
"Last time when he was running for president, his campaign theme was hope and change. This time he's hoping to change the subject because the American people are not happy," Romney said, speaking for about nine minutes as Occupy Wall Street protesters yelled from a nearby sidewalk.
In the TV interview, Romney suggested that Obama's decision on immigration was motivated by politics. "If he felt seriously about this he should have taken action when he had a Democrat House and Senate, but he didn't. He saves these sort of things until 4 1/2 months before the general election," he said.
Plouffe contended that Obama's action, which appeals to Hispanic voters who are critical to the president's re-election effort, was not "a political move."
Still, Plouffe acknowledged that Obama's team expects an extraordinarily close election. "It's going to come down to a few votes per precinct in a few states," Plouffe said in an interview on NBC's "Meet the Press."
Obama's order has put Romney in a difficult position, forcing him to decide between possibly alienating Hispanic voters with tough talk or stoking anger within a conservative GOP base that was slow to warm to him during the primary process.
The Obama administration said the policy change announced Friday will affect as many as 800,000 young immigrants who have lived in fear of deportation. Obama's move bypasses Congress and partly achieves the goals of the Democrats' long-stalled legislation aimed at young illegal immigrants who went to college or served in the military.
Under the administration plan, illegal immigrants will be able to avoid deportation if they can prove they were brought to the United States before they turned 16 and are younger than 30, have been in the country for at least five continuous years, have no criminal history, graduated from a U.S. high school or earned a GED diploma or certificate, or served in the military.