By Justin Sink
Mitt Romney began his five-day, six-state bus tour on Friday with renewed criticism of President Obama, blasting his opponent as "a detached and distant president who never seems to hear" the voices of the American people.
But Romney made no mention of the president's move Friday to stop deportation proceedings against most young illegal immigrants and instead allow them to apply for legal work permits, news that threatened to blow Romney's much-hyped bus tour off the front page.
Romney later said he would support the military exception.
But Hispanic voters, who will play an important role in key swing states like Colorado, Florida, and Nevada, overwhelmingly support the DREAM Act, and polls show Romney faces a daunting deficit with that demographic.
"I’ve indicated I would veto the DREAM Act if provisions included in that act say that people who were here illegally — if they go to school here long enough, if they get a degree here — then they can become permanent residents," Romney said during a debate in South Carolina in January. "I think that's a mistake."
Rather than wading into the issue again Friday, Romney instead stuck to a pounding criticism of Obama's economic record.
"If there has ever been a president who has failed to give the middle class of America a fair shot, it is Barack Obama," Romney said. "I have a very different vision for America, and of our future. And I know what we must do to truly give our fellow Americans a fair shot, and a better chance."
Romney also avoided the issue at the second stop of the bus trip Friday afternoon, also in New Hampshire — although he did provide a topical joke, considering the day's news.
"You’ve got a border security problem here in New Hampshire; you let in some people from Massachusetts," Romney quipped about a supportive crowd.
Meeting with supporters later on a rope line, Romney ignored multiple questions from members of the press about the president's announcement.
Romney said that the bus tour was designed to reinvigorate hope in rural America, noting that the heartland had given the country some of its greatest visionaries, from Mark Twain to Thomas Edison.
"In the days ahead, we'll be traveling on what are often called the 'backroads of America,' " Romney said. "But I think our tour takes us along much of the 'backbone of America.'"
Romney gave the kickoff speech from the New Hampshire farm where he officially began his campaign a little more than a year ago, and looked to frame his candidacy as that of an economic repairman. The campaign pulled out all of the stops for the event, commissioning a plane to circle the event promoting Romney's candidacy and hiring a professional television crew — equipped with a large crane — to film the speech.
"I am running for President because I have the experience and the vision to get us out of this mess. I am offering a real choice and a new beginning," Romney said.
The Republican nominee also blasted Obama's economic address in Cleveland Thursday as overwrought and poorly reasoned.
"Yesterday the president gave a speech. A very long speech," Romney said, taking a beat between each word to emphasize his point. "You might have thought that it would be a moment when he would acknowledge his policy mistakes and suggest a new course. But no. He promised four more years, of more of the same. Four more very long years."
Romney also emphasized his "day one" goals, including approving the Keystone oil pipeline and rolling back regulations.
"I see an America where free enterprise is nurtured and celebrated, not attacked, because freedom and free enterprise is what creates jobs, not government," Romney said, declaring later that "the era of big government will be over."
This post was updated at 3:05 p.m.