By Justin Sink - 06/26/12 05:24 PM EDT
Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney argued Tuesday that if the president's signature healthcare legislation was overturned Thursday by the Supreme Court, it would mean that President Obama's first term was a waste.
"Instead of focusing on immigration — and of course the big issue, which was the economy, and getting the economy going — he instead focused on putting in place his healthcare reform called ObamaCare," Romney said at a campaign stop in Salem, Va. "As you know, the Supreme Court is going to be dealing with whether or not ObamaCare is constitutional. If it's not, if ObamaCare is not deemed constitutional, than the first three and a half years of this president's term will have been wasted on something that does not help the American people."
Romney again remained evasive on whether he personally supported the move Arizona took — which enables police to demand immigration documents of those they suspect could be in the country illegally during routine police work — but tried to frame the issue instead as the result of a failure by the Obama administration.
"This has been a busy week for the Supreme Court. I think all their work highlights the leadership failures of our current president," Romney said. "You see, when he was running for office, he said would make it his first priority in his first-year agenda to reform our immigration system and make it work for the American people and those who want to come here legally. He did not do that. Why is that? He had a Democrat House, Democrat Senate, all the help he needed."
The Romney campaign is hoping that by hitting the president for not acting early in his term on immigration, it can erode some of the substantial gains Democrats have made with Hispanic voters in recent weeks following Obama's decision to halt deportation of some illegal immigrants who grew up in the United States.
But Romney is also hoping to avoid having to commit either in favor or against the Arizona law — which is popular with his conservative base but reviled by Hispanic voters — by simply shifting blame for the situation to the president.
"The Supreme Court had to step in because states had to step in, states looking to solve the problems he didn't address tried to address them in their own ways, and now the Supreme Court's looked at it and what we're left with is a bit of a muddle," Romney said. "What we know is, the president failed to lead."
Aside from his preliminary discussion of the Supreme Court's week of rulings, Romney mostly stuck to his standard stump speech. But the Republican candidate did look to address a charge — made repeatedly of late in Obama campaign speeches and ads — that he wasn't sufficiently concerned with the middle class.
Romney led the crowd in a call-and-response, questioning whether the president's energy policies or subsidies to certain industries helped the middle class, with the audience shouting "no" after each query.
"Let me tell you, if there's ever been a president of the United State who's not given a fair shot to middle-income families in America, that's President Obama, and that's why he's going to be replaced in November," Romney said.