Romney stumbles on immigration
By Dale McFeatters
Primary campaigns are different from presidential campaigns, which require the winning candidates to quickly shift gears for a general election.
The candidate is not assured of pre-screened friendly audiences, who are disposed to forgive and forget if their favorite candidate stumbles badly. Mitt Romney, with all his experience running for office, surely knows this. But last weekend, on his first venture in 2012 outside the friendly confines of Fox News, he did indeed stumble badly.
President Barack Obama had just announced his plan to allow younger illegal immigrants, brought to this country as youngsters and maintaining spotless records since, to obtain work permits and legal residency renewable every two years.
The Republicans hotly accused Obama of "playing politics." Excuse us while we lie down with a cold compress on our forehead at the febrile thought that, with just over four months to go to the election, a politician would play politics.
Appearing outside his protective media shell for the first time Sunday, on CBS's "Face the Nation," Romney refused five times to say whether he, as president, would revoke the executive order he had just finished denouncing.
He should have been prepared for the question; certainly his advisers must have seen it coming. But he left the impression that he honestly didn't have an answer; either that or he was afraid anything he said would offend one or another of his constituencies.
Romney attempted to deflect the questions by saying if Obama "felt seriously about this, he should have taken action when he had a Democrat House and Senate, but he didn't."
In fact, Obama in 2010 offered a version of the DREAM Act that would have led to citizenship, but Senate Republicans killed it. That's another pitfall Romney should have been warned about.
Romney has yet to offer his own immigration plan except for his detail-free promise to work with Congress on a long-term solution. The immigration debate has been at a rolling boil since at least 2005, so no real hurry there.
One of the GOP's most promising young stars may have been a collateral victim of Romney's waffling: Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, the party's best hope of rebuilding links to the Hispanic community and a favorite of the tea party and influential Republicans like former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. Rubio was said to be ready with his own version of the DREAM Act.
But ABC News reports that team Romney has not asked Rubio for his personal financial records, a first step in the vetting process and "a strong indication that he is not on Romney's short list of potential running mates."
The Romney campaign is indeed shifting gears, just not smoothly.
Dale McFeatters is an editorial writer for Scripps Howard News Service (www.scrippsnews.com).