Opinion Brief

Mitt Romney's no-specifics immigration plan: Can he get away with it?

The GOP presidential candidate is under increasing pressure to go into detail about how he would tackle illegal immigration

Though Mitt Romney and his advisers have been largely mute on President Obama's new policy to halt deportations of some illegal immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as children, Romney told a gathering of Latino officials in Florida last Thursday that he would replace Obama's short-term solution with permanent immigration reform. When pressed for details, he gave few. Then, in an appearance on CNN Sunday, one of his top advisers, Ed Gillespie, said Romney would look into the legality of Obama's policy, but Gillespie wouldn't say whether that meant Romney would overturn it. Will Romney have to offer more specifics to chip away at Obama's lead among Hispanic voters?

The specifics might not be crucial: Romney and Obama face "very different challenges," says Brad Knickerbocker at The Christian Science Monitor. Obama has to convince Hispanics, who voted for him by a 2-to-1 margin in 2008, to "stick with him." Romney, on the other hand, has a different critical task: "Greatly soften" the tough-guy image he projected during the primaries. And though Romney has offered "little specificity" about how he'll fix our "broken immigration system," some Latino leaders still say they "appreciate Romney's understanding of the need for comprehensive immigration reform." Plus, personal appeals from Latino surrogates like Sen. Marco Rubio might just help Romney "capture the imagination of many Latinos," even without a detailed policy proposal."Obama, Romney, the Latino vote and the run for 2012"

Plus, Romney knows detailed proposals could help Obama: Romney is being "vague, general, or downright evasive" on a host of critical issues, say Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns at Politico, from taxes to immigration to foreign policy. That's by design. With Americans struggling in a sour economy, Romney is determined to "make the campaign strictly a referendum on the incumbent." Romney has plenty of plans — he just doesn't want to "give any fodder to Obama aides hungry" to turn the spotlight away from their boss and onto him."Mitt Romney's no-policy problem"

But Romney has to provide details: Being evasive on distant concerns such as Syria or the eurozone is one thing, says S.E. Cupp at the New York Daily News, but "Romney cannot afford to be vague" on immigration. The issue is too "visible and immediate." Obama is making empty promises to "disaffected" Latino voters, treating them "as re-election pawns." If Romney doesn't counter with solid policies, Latinos will think he doesn't value their votes, and that could tip several swing states Obama's way."Mitt's immigration pickle"

Read more political coverage at The Week's 2012 Election Center.

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