GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney is refusing to say whether he would reverse a new policy that exempts undocumented immigrants who came here as children from deportation.
Romney was asked three times in an interview on CBS' "Face the Nation" whether he would overturn the executive order issued Friday if he's elected in the fall. He refused to answer directly.
"It would be overtaken by events," Romney said when pressed for the second time by moderator Bob Schieffer during the interview taped Saturday while the former Massachusetts governor's bus tour stopped in Pennsylvania.
He explained the order would become irrelevant "by virtue of my putting in place a long-term solution, with legislation which creates law that relates to these individuals such that they know what their setting is going to be, not just for the term of a president but on a permanent basis."
Romney's Rust Belt tour swept through Ohio on Sunday. He attended a Father's Day pancake breakfast with two of his sons and five of his 18 grandchildren. He told a rain-soaked crowd that the weather was a metaphor for the country and that "three and half years of dark clouds are about to part."
He planned two additional stops in the state Sunday.
In the TV interview, Romney suggested that Obama's decision on immigration was motivated by politics.
"If he felt seriously about this he should have taken action when he had a Democrat House and Senate, but he didn't. He saves these sort of things until four and a half months before the general election," he said.
Obama adviser David Plouffe, sent by the White House to four of the talk shows, contended that Obama's action, which appeals to Hispanic voters who are critical to the president's re-election effort, was not "a political move."
Obama's order has put Romney in a difficult position, forcing him to decide between possibly alienating Hispanic voters with tough talk or stoking anger within a conservative GOP base that was slow to warm to him during the primary process.
Romney's comments represent a further softening of his rhetoric on immigration since the GOP primary campaign ended.
For example, before the Iowa caucuses in January, when he faced the challenge of winning over the right-wing base of the GOP, he pledged to veto legislation backed by Democrats that would have created a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children. Instead of emphasizing the plight of undocumented immigrants, Romney focused on the consequences illegal immigration has for U.S. jobs.
Obama's immigration announcement disrupted the start of Romney's five-day bus tour through small cities and towns in six important states.
The tour, now on its third day, scheduled two stops are in Ohio towns just outside the metropolitan areas of Cleveland and Columbus. Romney spent the first two days in New Hampshire and Pennsylvania, where he assailed Obama and insisted that he's the candidate who will give middle-class Americans "a fair shot."
The Obama administration said the policy change announced Friday will affect as many as 800,000 immigrants who have lived in fear of deportation. Obama's move bypasses Congress and partially achieves the goals of the Democrats' long-stalled legislation aimed at young illegal immigrants who went to college or served in the military.
Under the administration plan, undocumented immigrants will be able to avoid deportation if they can prove they were brought to the United States before they turned 16 and are younger than 30, have been in the country for at least five continuous years, have no criminal history, graduated from a U.S. high school or earned a GED diploma or certificate, or served in the military. They also can apply for a work permit that will be good for two years with no limits on how many times it can be renewed.
Romney's CBS interview was his first in more than a year with a Sunday talk show on a network other than Fox. It covered a range of topics, including health care, Romney's political future and the European financial crisis.
Romney said that the American banking sector "is able to weather the storm" in Europe. He said European countries are capable of dealing with their mess "if they choose to do so" and the U.S. doesn't want to get into the business of bailing out foreign banks. Romney also does not favor another round of economic stimulus by the Federal Reserve, saying a previous one didn't have the desired effect.
The former Massachusetts governor, whose health care plan for the state served as the model for the national health reform law, outlined steps he'd take if the Supreme Court strikes it down. On Iran, Romney said he would be willing to "take military action if necessary" to prevent the country from becoming a nuclear power.
Based on reporting by the Associated Press.