Romney steps up effort to woo Latino voters in Univision forum

Navarro: Romney's "Latino-palooza"
Navarro: Romney's "Latino-palooza"

    JUST WATCHED

    Navarro: Romney's "Latino-palooza"

MUST WATCH

Navarro: Romney's "Latino-palooza" 03:39

Story highlights

  • Romney promises to put in place immigration reform system
  • He criticizes Obama for not delivering on campaign promises
  • The forum comes after co-host criticizes no Latino moderator in upcoming debates
  • Polls show Obama leading among Latino voters

Republican presidential candidate Gov. Mitt Romney stepped up efforts to woo Latino voters Wednesday in a forum broadcast live online by the Spanish-language Univision network.

Student supporters in the audience at the University of Miami cheered as Romney responded in English to Spanish-language questions about immigration, education, health care, jobs and the economy.

"With a father born in Mexico, are you sure you're not Latino?" co-host Jorge Ramos joked at the forum's start, apparently referring to controversial comments on a secretly recorded video released this week that showed the Republican candidate saying "it would be helpful to be Latino."

Romney's 'helpful to be Latino' comment met with sarcasm, humor

Romney laughed at the question Wednesday.

Byers: Romney campaign in 'crisis mode'
Byers: Romney campaign in 'crisis mode'

    JUST WATCHED

    Byers: Romney campaign in 'crisis mode'

MUST WATCH

Byers: Romney campaign in 'crisis mode' 05:16
PLAY VIDEO
Romney campaign's spin on leaked tape
Romney campaign's spin on leaked tape

    JUST WATCHED

    Romney campaign's spin on leaked tape

MUST WATCH

Romney campaign's spin on leaked tape 03:16
PLAY VIDEO

"I think for political purposes that might have helped me here at the University of Miami today," he said, "but as you know my dad was born of American parents who were living in Mexico, and he came back to this country at age 5 or 6 ... and he recognized that this is the land of opportunity, and he has been the role model and inspiration for my whole life."

Minutes into the forum, which included questions from moderators and audience members, Ramos and co-host Maria Elena Salinas pressed Romney about his stance on immigration.

"The immigration system, I think we all agree, is broken and it's been a political football for years and years...and it needs to be fixed," Romney said.

He criticized U.S. President Barack Obama for pledging to fix the problem, but not delivering.

"When I'm president, I will actually do what I promise, I will put in place an immigration reform system that resolves this issue," Romney said.

The Republican candidate offered few specifics about his plan, but he praised previous proposals by Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and said he supported offering permanent residency to people who serve in the military.

Asked whether he would deport young illegal immigrants brought to America as children who want to study and work in the country where they grew up, he responded, "I'm not going to be rounding people up and deporting them. We're going to put in place a permanent solution."

Romney has struggled in the past to frame his positions on immigration in ways that appeal to Hispanic voters as well as the conservative base of the Republican Party.

Unable to close ground on Obama in the polls, the GOP challenger seeks to woo Hispanic voters but has found himself hindered by the conservative stance he took on immigration policy to win the Republican primary campaign.

Opinion: Can Romney connect with Latino voters?

Now, his opposition to Obama's move this summer to halt deportations of some children of illegal immigrants puts Romney at odds with a majority of Latino voters, especially younger ones in the fastest-growing demographic of the U.S. population.

The ImpreMedia/Latino Decisions weekly tracking poll reported Monday that Obama held a 68%-26% advantage over Romney among Hispanics.

A Gallup poll conducted partially before and partially after the Republican National Convention at the end of August said Obama leads Romney among Latino registered voters 64%-27%.

Asked to directly address Hispanic voters at the end of Wednesday's forum, Romney focused on economic issues, which polls have indicated are a top priority for Latinos.

Romney noted that he was concerned about high unemployment and that "so many Hispanic Americans drop out of high school."

"The president's policies, I think, while well intended, haven't done the job that needs to be done," he said. "I understand what it takes to create jobs."

The forum, co-sponsored by Facebook, was broadcast live online in Spanish and English in the evening and aired on Univision later Wednesday night.

Obama is scheduled to appear in another "Meet the Candidates" forum hosted by Univision on Thursday.

Romney makes case to Latino voters

The events come several weeks after Ramos criticized the Commission on Presidential Debates for not picking a Latino debate moderator.

"I think that they should have noticed that this country is changing very rapidly," Ramos told CNN in August. "Minorities, for instance, surpass whites in U.S. births, and those changes simply are not reflected. I really can't believe why they didn't choose a member of a minority group to be part of at least one debate, and I really can't understand why (the commission didn't pick) a journalist from the fastest (growing) voting block in the country, the Latinos."

The bipartisan commission that organizes presidential debates announced the moderators last month.

PBS' Jim Lehrer will host the first debate on October 3 in Denver. Candy Crowley, CNN's chief political correspondent and host of "State of the Union," will host the second debate on October 16 in Hempsted, New York, at Hoftsra University. And CBS' Bob Schieffer will host an October 22 debate in Boca Raton, Florida.

      Election 2012

    • CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 06:  U.S. President Barack Obama stands on stage with first lady Michelle Obama, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden after his victory speech on election night at McCormick Place November 6, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois. Obama won reelection against Republican candidate, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney.  (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

      Obama makes history, again

      A black man is returning to the White House. Four years ago, it was a first, the breaking of a racial barrier. Tuesday night, it was history redux. And more.
    • CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 06:  U.S. President Barack Obama stands on stage after his victory speech at McCormick Place November 6, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois. Obama won reelection against Republican candidate, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney.  (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

      Five things we learned

      The 2012 presidential election shattered spending records, further polarized a divided country and launched a thousand hashtags.
    • Demanding more from second term

      Even though voters indicated to pollsters that their financial situation is the same or worse than it was four years ago, they put their trust in the president.
    • US President Barack Obama addresses a crowd of supporters on stage on election night November 6, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois. President Barack Obama swept to re-election Tuesday, forging history again by transcending a slow economic recovery and the high unemployment which haunted his first term to beat Republican Mitt Romney. AFP PHOTO/Jewel Samad        (Photo credit should read JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)

      Victorious Obama faces challenges

      The president faces a long and familiar set of challenges after riding a wave of support from moderates, women and minorities to victory.
    • GOP retains grip on House

      Republicans kept a lock on the U.S. House of Representatives, a crucial victory after the party failed to wrest away the presidency from Barack Obama and the Senate from the Democrats.