Mitt Romney appeared to embrace his role as the “grandfather of Obamacare,” while also disavowing President Barack Obama’s health-care law, as the Republican softened his tone on a host of hot-button issues Wednesday evening.
“I have experience in health-care reform,” Mr. Romney said in a candidates forum hosted by Univision, the Spanish-language network. “Now and then the president says I’m the grandfather of Obamacare. I don’t think he meant that as a compliment but I’ll take it.”
“This was during my primary, we thought it might not be helpful,” Mr. Romney added, a nod to the fact that the candidate has been careful for much of his campaign to avoid discussing the health-care law he passed when he was governor of Massachusetts. The Massachusetts law includes an individual mandate similar to the one in the president’s health care law, which conservatives disdain.
As Mr. Romney counted the Massachusetts law a success, he also said he didn’t think a federal health-care takeover was the solution.
“I’ve actually been able to put in place a system that fit the needs of the people of my state,” he said. “The nature of the American experiment has been letting states build plans and ideas that work for each of them.”
The Romney campaign has endured conservative backlash for touting the Massachusetts law before. When Andrea Saul, a spokeswoman for the Romney campaign, lauded the health-care law in a television interview earlier this year, the right-wing assailed her for doing so.
The Wednesday evening event marked a chance for Mr. Romney to tone down some of the charged rhetoric that has sidetracked his campaign in recent days and may have alienated voters during the GOP primaries.
In the wake of a video that showed Mr. Romney speaking dismissively about nearly half of the population as people who view themselves as “victims” and are dependent on the government, he was careful to cast his campaign as an inclusive enterprise.
“This is a campaign about the 100%,” he said.
Mr. Romney also took a milder tone on immigration issues, an effort to repair his standing with an important Hispanic voting bloc after he championed plans such as “self-deportation” during the Republican primaries.
He has a wide gap to try to make up: Mr. Obama led among registered Latino voters – 68% to 26% – according to a tracking poll by impreMedia and Latino Decisions released Monday.
“We’re not going to round up people around the country and deport them,” Mr. Romney said Wednesday. “I believe people make their own choices as to whether they want to go home and that’s what I mean by self-deportation, people decide if they want to go back to the country of their origin.”
He also hinted he would be in favor of a Republican version of the Dream Act, offering it as an alternative to the president’s executive order which will allow many young people who were brought to the U.S. illegally to remain here legally.
“These kids deserve something better than temporary. They deserve permanent,” Mr. Romney said, a knock on Mr. Obama’s executive order. “The ideas that were being brought forth by Sen. Marco Rubio, those are things that should have been pursued.”
Mr. Rubio’s proposal would have allowed illegal immigrants who came to the U.S. as children to gain legal status, but not citizenship as som Democrats have advocated.
The Obama campaign quickly accused Mr. Romney of doing too little to appeal to Hispanic voters. “Tonight, Mitt Romney continued to demonstrate why Hispanic Americans don’t trust him,” said Stephanie Cutter, deputy campaign manager for Mr. Obama’s re-election effort. “Whether it’s raising taxes on the middle class to pay for another millionaire tax cut, repealing Obamacare and leaving as many as 9 million Hispanic Americans without health insurance or doubling down on asking immigrants to self-deport, Mitt Romney is wrong on issues of importance to the Hispanic community.”
Mr. Romney also took a different approach in addressing gay marriage, carefully pointing out the benefits that should be afforded to same-sex couples.
“I would like to have the term marriage continue to be associated with a relationship between one man and one woman,” he said. “That certainly, that certainly doesn’t prevent two people of the same gender living in a loving relationship together having gay domestic partnership if you will. I can see rights such as hospital visitation rights and similar types of things being provided to those individuals.”
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