On CBS yesterday, Mitt Romney attacked Obama’s new policy on immigration, but he refused to say whether he would repeal that policy or what he would do instead over the long term. Philip Rucker and Dan Balz have a nice piece this morning pointing this out, but more to the point, they highlight the degree to which Romney has built his entire campaign on attacking Obama’s policies while refusing to detail what he would do instead:
Romney’s struggle to offer a clear alternative on the immigration issue was a fresh reminder of one of the challenges he faces, which is to go beyond his steady criticism of the president with a more detailed description of the policies he would implement to replace what Obama has done.
Immigration is a problem particularly because of conservative stances Romney took during the Republican primary campaign that now could cause him difficulty in appealing to Hispanic voters in the general election. But even regarding the biggest issue of the campaign — the economy — there are many unanswered questions as to what he would do....
At the rally here in Newark, Romney revved up a couple of thousand supporters by promising to “shock the world with how our economy’s coming back,” but in a speech that clocked at just nine minutes, offered only broad outlines and few specifics.
Romney has been very good at avoiding pressure from the media to be more specific on a number of core questions that are at the heart of this campaign. He has faced little media heat for refusing to explain how he would pay for his massive tax cuts for the rich — and even made it clear during yesterday's interview that he sees no need to answer that question in detail for the duration of the campaign.
Romney’s campaign regularly says he is offering an approach to the economy that hasn’t been tried before. But he has not been pressed hard to explain how, exactly, his policies would differ from those of George W. Bush — or indeed why we should expect those policies to produce runaway growth and shared prosperity when that didn’t happen last time around. Romney regularly criticizes Obama’s stimulus as a failure, but he has not been pressed to say what he would have done differently if he’d been president in January of 2009.
More broadly, it’s almost never remarked upon at all, but Romney doesn’t have a plan to fix the economic crisis — at least in the sense that he’d be proposing the same things he is now if the economy were doing great — despite the fact that this presidential race is all about what to do about the economic crisis.
* Romney tightens embrace of Paul Ryan: Romney is set to campaign with Paul Ryan today, and Janet Hook has an interesting look at one of the surprises of this presidential race: Rather than distancing himself from unpopular House Republicans and their agenda, Romney has only tightened his embrace of them.
Dems are particularly pleased this morning by this quote from GOP Rep. Jim Jordan about Romney: “He’s our guy.”
Many observers expected Romney to work hard to achieve separation from the House GOP, but the real story turned out to be the degree to which Romney’s and Ryan’s broad economic visions are in sync with one another.
* Big week for the politics of immigration: Three things to watch this week: Romney and Obama are both speaking before Latino elected officials in Florida; Obama is meeting with immigration activists today; and the Supreme Court could rule on the Arizona law.
The question is whether the elevation of the issue this week will force Romney to take a position on Obama’s anti-deportation order. If Romney opposes it, he will imperil hopes of making inroads among a constituency that could decide key swing states; if he supports it, he’ll anger the right and underscore his ideological opportunism.
* Student loan fight set to intensify: There are now only two weeks remaining until the low interest rate on student loans expires. Failure by Congress to act could have untold political fallout in the presidential camapign, in which turnout among young voters — which could be dampened by inaction — will be important to Obama’s chances.
Republicans are pressuring Obama to get more involved in breaking the logjam. But as far as I know, Romney — who has said he favors extending the low rates in principle — has yet to take a position on how it should be paid for, which is the central dispute here.
* Last chance to shape the battle for Congress: The student loan extension and the highway bill — which is in limbo over the House GOP demand that it include approval of Keystone and concessions on energy regulations — may be the last big-ticket items that Congress will be able to do to set the framework of this fall’s elections.
* A boost for Obama among Latinos: The Obama campaign releases a video featuring Cristina Saralegui, a popular talk show host who is frequently called the “Hispanic Oprah,” endorsing the President for reelection. Her messsage heavily emphasizes the need for Latinos to register to vote and make their voices heard on election day, reflecting Dem fears that turnout among this crucial constituency could detract from his overwhelming advantage in the polls among them.
* Marco Rubio’s DREAM plans foiled: Roll Call notes that Obama's immigration announcement completely undercut Rubio’s plan to release his own DREAM Act in order to minimize the damage the GOP’s immigration positions are doing to the party among Latinos. If Dems can continue to block GOP efforts to win over Latinos, it could have sigificant long term implications for the GOP, since the Latino share of the vote will only grow in the years ahead.
* Rubio reevaluating DREAM strategy: A Rubio spokesman concedes that Obama’s move makes it less likely that the GOP DREAM Act will move forward this year, and says Rubio and his advisers will now “reevaluate our legislative strategy,” yet another sign of how much Obama’s annoumcement scramble the politics of immigration.
* Romney outreach to Latinos focuses on economy: The Romney campaign releases a new Spanish-language ad renewing the pitch for Latinos. That this release would come right at the moment when he’s struggling to articulate his position on immigration underscores again that his only hope of reducing the damage among these voters lies in emphasizing their economic struggles.
* And David Axelrod on Obama’s reelection challenges: Axelrod talks to E.J. Dionne about how to battle against Romney’s perfectly stripped down message, i.e., the economy sucks, so get rid of the guy in charge:
Obama is not blessed with the opportunity to be simple. He has to show that he knows things are bad for a lot of people but also insist that his policies made things a whole lot better than they would have been. He has to argue that the Republicans are blocking his proposals to improve the economy, but he doesn’t want to look like a politician inventing an alibi. Above all, he has to persuade swing voters (Axelrod estimates that, at most, they constitute 15 percent of the electorate) to see this as something other than an ordinary election.