Today, Mitt Romney faces the Latinos. It comes almost one week after the president reset the debate over immigration by announcing his "stopgap" DREAM Act.
Since then, Romney has largely dodged the issue, except to call President Obama¿s move a political ploy.
Now, he may have no choice. Today he goes before the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials. It's his second time before a Hispanic group in the last month. If he gives another speech without mentioning immigration, people are going to wonder: "What's he hiding? Why won't he just come out and say what he thinks?"
But if he wades into those waters -- look out!
Conservative Republicans are in a tizzy over Obama using his executive power to halt the deportations of hundreds of thousands of young undocumented immigrants. If Romney takes a similar stand, he's going to anger a big block of passionate voters.
So, forgive Mitt if he looks a little stiffer than usual today. This is not the topic he wanted to talk about. To him, it's all about the economy. And exactly a week ago, he and President Obama went practically head-to-head over it.
The differences were distinct: The blue blood went to the blue collars. The first black president went to a crowd of mostly blacks.
They stood 250 miles apart. Romney made his stand surrounded by forklifts, crates, industrial fans and heavy machinery in the corner of Ohio that butts up against Kentucky and nudges Indiana. Obama stood at a podium at Cuyahoga Community College, across Lake Erie from Detroit.
In dueling speeches just minutes apart, Barack Obama and GOP challenger Mitt Romney thrust the nation's economic recovery -- or lack thereof -- to the forefront of the campaign debate, and cast each other as the villain whose economic philosophy would cause irreparable financial harm.
The president cast his speech as a line in the sand. He deliberately due distinctions between himself and his Republican opponent, and described the election stakes as "the make-or-break moment for America's middle class.
"This November is your chance to render a verdict on the debate over how to grow the economy, how to create good jobs, how to pay down our deficit," Obama said. "Your vote will finally determine the path that we take as a nation -- not just tomorrow, but for years to come."
Romney, who started ahead of the president in the safe Republican territory of Cincinnati, gave it similar importance, putting himself forth as the one to rescue the nation¿s economy.
"I think he's made it harder for the American enterprise system to work," Mr. Romney said. "And I want to change that. I want to make it once again, America once again the most attractive place in the world for job creators."
In this race, Obama's incumbency might be more of a burden than a boon. Every mediocre, or worse, jobs report weighs him down. He may, in his words, have brought us back from the brink of depression and is "digging out of a hole that is nine million jobs deep" (a hole, both sides agree, he inherited from his Republican predecessor), but in this nation of instant gratification, we want our cures yesterday.
"Talk is cheap," Romney said. "Action speaks very loud, and if you want to see the results of his economic policies, look around Ohio and the country."
Obama seemed ready for that line of attack, and stood by his call for a mix of raising taxes on the nation's wealthiest, holding down spending, but promoting government-sponsored growth in areas like education, clean energy and road- and bridge- building.
Romney, the president said, will "tell you the economy is bad, that it is all my fault, that I can't fix it because I think government is always the answer or because I didn't make a lot of money in the private sector and don't understand it, or because I am in over my head, or because I think everybody is doing just fine.
"That may be their plan to win the election but it is not a plan to create jobs," he continued. "It is not a plan to grow the economy."
Romney had a response for that, too.
"Now, I know that he will have all sorts of excuses, and he'll have all sorts of ideas he'll describe about how he'll make things better," he said. "But what he says and what he does are not always the exact same thing. And so if people want to know how his economic policies have worked and how they perform, why they can talk to their neighbor and ask if things are better."
But the war of words took an unexpected turn Friday, when Obama suddenly switched gears. Everyone ¿ Republicans, Democrats, Hispanics, and non- -- have been talking about it ever since.
Now it's Romney's turn.
He can get back to the economy later. Today, it won't just be Hispanics watching to see if he takes Obama on over immigration, or if he tries to duck and weave again.
Source: Terra/Carlos Harrison