Romney Puts Focus On Immigration
Monday, January 7, 2008
MANCHESTER, N.H., Jan. 6 -- Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney sought on Sunday to revive his party's contentious debate over illegal immigration, hoping to remind voters in New Hampshire of the issue that stoked conservative anger and nearly derailed Sen. John McCain's presidential campaign last summer.
The senator from Arizona returned the fire, telling reporters that Romney "has changed his position on almost every major issue" and flatly declaring that he "will win" the New Hampshire primary. Manchester's Union Leader, the state's largest newspaper, weighed in with its second front-page endorsement of McCain, calling him "the real deal" and "by far the best qualified individual to lead America."
Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, making an aggressive push to finish at least third here, found one of the few evangelical churches in the state to speak to in Windham, where he delivered a sermon that did not touch on politics but called on the congregation to be part of "God's army." He then headed to a rally with actor Chuck Norris, his sidekick at every event here, and went on a seven-mile run in Manchester before heading off to the second Republican debate in two nights.
In that forum, hosted by Fox News Channel, five candidates clashed for 90 minutes over immigration, taxes, government spending, terrorism and the need for change in Washington. Fox did not allow Rep. Ron Paul (Tex.) to take part.
The most heated exchange came when Romney accused Huckabee of raising taxes while governor. Huckabee retorted by asking Romney whether he raised $500 million in fees, and said: "You know, Mitt, let's talk about how stubborn the facts are. Answer the question."
Romney retorted: "Mike, you make up facts faster than you talk. And that's saying something."
But the focus of the day seemed to be on Romney and the prospect that his big-budget, highly organized campaign may be on the verge of a spectacular collapse if he loses Tuesday's primary.
Romney held just one event Sunday, a town hall meeting in Nashua with almost 400 people. He spent part of the day taping a two-minute commercial that the campaign calls its "closing argument" for New Hampshire and will air Monday night.
Struggling to right his campaign with less than 48 hours before the polls open, Romney repeatedly accused McCain of wanting to allow illegal immigrants to remain in the country even after the southern border is secured.
"What his posture does is, it says that every alien in this country that's here illegally gets to stay here for the rest of their life, and that is wrong," Romney said on ABC's "This Week."
He repeated the accusation in Nashua, earning raucous applause when he asserted that McCain's position "will only encourage more illegal immigration. It is time to stop illegal immigration."
Faced with a new poll that shows him trailing McCain, Romney is betting that highlighting his rival's role in sponsoring an immigration bill with Democratic Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (Mass.) will help rekindle the anger that many conservatives felt last summer, when the issue dominated conservative talk radio.