Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney had to deal with at least three challenges Wednesday at a meet-the-presidential-candidate forum on Spanish-language Univision.
One was to try to further defuse controversial comments that recently came to light in which he described, at a private fundraiser in May, President Obama's supporters as dependent on the federal government.
Another was to explain why Latinos should support a candidate who has proposed that undocumented immigrants voluntarily leave the U.S., and who expressed his support for Arizona's hard-line immigration law.
The third was to answer the question why Latinos shouldn't support President Obama who, after all, used his executive power to implement parts of the long-stalled DREAM Act in order to help young immigrants brought illegally into the U.S. as children.
If Romney was daunted by any of this, he showed no signs of it during the 45-minute session in front of a friendly Republican audience at the University of Miami. (Obama was scheduled to appear Thursday at the same forum before an audience of Democrats.)
Right off the bat, Romney was asked by host Maria Elena Salinas about his remarks about the "47 percent" of voters who support Obama.
Romney's answer showed that his approach to the uproar, which erupted Monday with the publication of the video by Mother Jones, continues to evolve.
Instead of saying he was merely talking about campaign strategy and acknowledging the political reality that voters are about evenly split between him and the president, he said:
"First of all, this is a campaign about the 100 percent. And in the last several years you've seen greater divisiveness in this country. We had hoped to come back together but instead you've seen us pull apart. And politics has driven us apart in some respects. So my campaign is about the 100 percent of America. And I'm concerned about them ... "
The questions quickly turned to immigration, with Salinas asking Romney if he would maintain Obama's deferred-action policy, which would stop deportation proceedings against certain young people brought into the country illegally by parents or others.
Romney repeated his past criticism that Obama's action was temporary and that a President Romney would push for comprehensive and permanent immigration reform.
With Romney failing to directly answer the question, Salinas finally said: "Are you going to deport them or not? Yes or no?"
Romney answered: "We're not going to round up people around the country and deport them ... "
That led host Jorge Ramos to remind Romney that the former Massachusetts governor had called on illegal immigrants to deport themselves. Ramos asked if 11 million people would self-deport. And, he added, did Romney like the tough Arizona law that cracks down on illegal immigrants?
"I believe people make their own choices as to whether they want to go home. And that's what I mean by self-deportation," Romney said.
The candidate added that a provision in the controversial Arizona law that he likes requires employers to check the immigration status of job applicants.
In keeping with a campaign strategy that one of the best ways to win the White House is to remind Obama's supporters of their disappointments with the president, Romney repeated an argument on immigration he's used before:
"What the president did was take no action when he had a Democrat House and Senate, even though he said he would. And then he put in place something he called a stopgap measure — temporary. These kids deserve something better than temporary. They deserve a permanent solution ... "
The president's deputy campaign manager, Stephanie Cutter, issued Team Obama's response to Romney's appearance:
"Tonight, Mitt Romney continued to demonstrate why Hispanic Americans don't trust him. 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. On critical issues, he continued to refuse to answer any of the tough questions or provide any specifics on what he'd do as president. We are just two weeks away from the first presidential debate, where the American people will demand more than vague answers and empty platitudes. It's time for Mitt Romney to come clean and get specific about his policies."