BRUNSWICK, Ohio -- Mitt Romney in an interview aired Sunday repeatedly refused to say that he would overturn President Barack Obama's new policy allowing some young illegal immigrants to stay in the United States. He claimed 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 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 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."
In the TV interview, Romney suggested that Obama's decision on immigration
Plouffe, the Obama adviser, sent by the White House to four of the talk shows, 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. His comment underscores the reality that a small number of extra votes from Hispanics could make the difference in some key states like Nevada and Colorado.
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.
Romney's comments represent a further softening of his rhetoric on immigration since the GOP primary campaign ended.
For example, before the Iowa caucuses in January, when he faced the challenge of winning over the right-wing base of the GOP, he pledged to veto legislation backed by Democrats that would have created a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants brought to the U.S. as children. Instead of emphasizing the plight of illegal immigrants, Romney focused on the consequences illegal immigration has for U.S. jobs.