* Romney will not overturn Obama immigration order
* First presidential debate on Wednesday
DENVER, Oct 2 (Reuters) - U.S. Republican Mitt Romney
positioned himself on Tuesday for a high-stakes presidential
debate, softening his stance on immigration while his campaign
accused the White House of a "stunning admission" that it had
failed on the economy.
Trailing in many polls, Romney is widely seen as needing to
score a win at the televised debate in Denver on Wednesday night
when the two men square off over domestic issues like the
economy, immigration and healthcare.
Romney's campaign jumped on Vice President Joe Biden for
comments the Republicans said were an acknowledgment that
Obama's policies have been bad for the economy.
Accusing Romney of planning to raise taxes, Biden told a
crowd in Charlotte, North Carolina:
"This is deadly earnest. How they can justify ... raising
taxes on the middle class that has been buried the last four
Obama's camp said Biden, known for making gaffes and
speaking out of turn, was referring to the economic plight
caused by former President George W. Bush's policies. But the
Romney campaign made the most of the remark.
"Vice President Biden, just today, said that the middle
class, over the last four years, has been 'buried.' We agree,"
Romney's running mate, Paul Ryan, told supporters at a campaign
event in Iowa.
The Biden comment gave Republicans hope ahead of Wednesday's
showdown in Denver, the first of three presidential debates that
might define the Nov. 6 election.
In the latest effort to show a gentler side after a damaging
video appeared last month, Romney tweaked his immigration
He told The Denver Post that he would not overturn an order
by Obama in June that allows hundreds of thousands of illegal
immigrants brought to the United States as children to stay in
The former Massachusetts governor is struggling to score
points with independent voters on immigration after suggesting
in the Republican primaries that some 12 million undocumented
workers should "self-deport" from the United States.
"The people who have received the special visa that the
president has put in place, which is a two-year visa, should
expect that the visa would continue to be valid. I'm not going
to take something that they've purchased," Romney said.
Previously, Romney had not said whether he would reverse
Obama's order, instead promising to put in place an immigration
reform of his own that would make that kind of action
His softer stance on immigration appeared aimed at courting
the Hispanic vote, which will likely be key in the swing state
of Colorado. Nationally, Obama leads Romney among Hispanic
voters by as much as 40 percentage points.
It is part of a bid by Romney's campaign to present a more
empathetic face to voters after the former businessman was seen
on a secretly recorded video deriding 47 percent of the
electorate as dependent on federal aid.
A Reuters/Ipsos poll on Tuesday showed Obama's lead over the
Republican narrowing to five points, at 46-41 percent. Obama was
ahead by seven points last week and five points on Monday in the
Last week, Romney told voters in battleground state Ohio
that his "heart aches" for the jobless and he has been bolder in
defending his 2006 healthcare reform in Massachusetts as
evidence that he cares for ordinary people.
Often accused of being out of touch with voters, Romney took
a break from preparation for Wednesday's debate with Obama by
visiting Mexican fast food chain Chipotle in Denver, where he
ordered a "burrito bowl" of pork, rice, black beans, guacamole
and a spicy sauce.
Obama goes into the debate s appearing to have the momentum
in the campaign despite high unemployment and criticism of his
Middle East policy after last month's killing of the U.S.
ambassador to Libya.
"The Romney campaign still seems to be trying to find a Plan
B for going after the incumbent," said Dante Scala, a political
science professor at the University of New Hampshire.
Obama's campaign accused the Republican of confusing voters
in T he Denver Post interview a bout whether he supports allowing
the children of illegal immigrants to stay in the United States.
"There are a lot of questions that were raised about that
interview. Again, it's not showing a huge amount of courage to
give a confusing answer on an issue that's been around for more
than 100 days," spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in Nevada.
Romney's comments may risk alienating conservative voters
who applauded his earlier stand against illegal immigration.
"Problem is, the real conservative base will reel him back
in. Talk radio will be on him by (Tuesday) afternoon," said
Larry Berman, a professor of political science at Georgia State
Despite Romney's new course on immigration, Ryan has taken a
harder tone. The Wisconsin congressman has vowed that Romney
would overturn the kind of White House order that Obama used in
offering work permits to the children of illegal immigrants.
"Here's the great thing about a Mitt Romney presidency. For
an executive order that came from the last president, the new
president can undo it," Ryan told voters in Lima, Ohio, on Sept.
24. "We're planning that."
Speaking in Iowa on Tuesday, Ryan was quizzed by a voter
about a Fox News interview last weekend in which he said he
could not quickly explain to the interviewer which tax loopholes
he and Romney would scrap to allow them to cut tax rates.
"Why aren't you more specific? I heard you, was it Sunday
when you were on Fox? And you didn't answer his question about
what are your plans," the woman asked.
Ryan said: "When you get into a math conversation, it can
take a little while. ... There is plenty of fiscal room to keep
these important preferences for middle-class taxpayers, you
know, like charitable donations or buying a home or healthcare."