Mitt Romney said three times in the opening 10 minutes of tonight's Univision "Meet the Candidate" forum that his campaign is "about the 100 percent," a clear message to voters who have been swamped with sound bites and video clips that show the candidate suggesting he wasn't concerned about the nearly half of the country unlikely to vote for him.
"My campaign is about the 100 percent of America," Romney said to the University of Miami crowd. "And I'm concerned about them. Life has become harder for Americans. I know I'm not going to get 100 percent of the vote. And my campaign will focus on the ones who will vote for me. ... I'm convinced that if we take a different course, you'll see incomes rising. I have a record, I've demonstrated my capacity to help the 100 percent."
Faced with some tough questions about immigration, Romney repeated his stance that the best path forward was a wholesale overhaul of the system that would encourage people in the country illegally now to "self-deport" and try to enter again under new laws.
"Do you think you're going to self-deport 11 million immigrants?" Univision anchor Jorge Ramos asked pointedly.
"I believe that people make their own choices as to whether they want to go home, and that's what I mean by self-deportation," Romney replied, appearing to soften his message from the primary debates in which self-deportation was forefront in his immigration plan. "People decide whether they want to go back to their country of origin and get in line legally to come to this country. Look, legal immigration is critical to this country. I love legal immigration."
When pressed further on the Arizona law that would require legal immigrants to provide papers in case they're arrested or stopped by police for any reason, Romney declined to take a firm position. At the time of the Supreme Court decision upholding most of the law, Romney would only say that President Obama "has failed to provide any leadership on immigration" and that states deserve the right to craft their own immigration laws when the federal government fails to do so. He said about the same tonight.
The Republican also answered questions about his plan to repeal Obama's health care law. When asked how he felt about the president and other Democrats' calling him "the grandfather" of the new "Affordable Care Act," Romney laughed.
"I don't think they meant it as a compliment," he said, "but I'll take it. This was during my primary. We thought it might not be helpful."
Democrats have seized on the fact that Romney included an individual mandate in his health care plan -- similar to that in President Obama's law -- during his time as Bay State governor.
Romney also stuck by his opposition to same-sex marriage. When asked whether he would react differently if one of his five sons were gay, the candidate said, "My kids are all married, so I'd be surprised."
The appearance on Univision, which will host President Obama in a similar setting Thursday afternoon, marks the beginning of a larger effort to connect with Latino voters, a core group Romney has had trouble swaying in the polls. He spoke at the U.S Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Monday and will campaign across Florida in the coming days.
Romney acknowledged the problem with a quick joke at the beginning of tonight's forum and, of course, during the now infamous, secretly taped fundraiser in Florida.