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MIAMI (AP) — Facing tough questions about his commitment to all Americans, Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney declared Wednesday that his campaign supports "the 100 percent in America."
Romney was responding at a televised forum to questions sparked by his remarks last spring that, as a candidate, "my job is not to worry about" the 47 percent of Americans who don't earn enough to pay income taxes and are likely to support President Barack Obama. He also described them as people who are "dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe they are entitled" to a wide range of benefits.
In the days since the magazine Mother Jones posted the secretly taped comments to donors, the Romney campaign has tried to fend off criticism that the Republican candidate was writing off nearly half the country or was disdainful of them.
Earlier in the day, Romney tried to draw a distinction between himself and Obama. "The question of this campaign is not who cares about the poor and the middle class. I do. He does," Romney said at an Atlanta fundraiser. "The question is who can help the poor and the middle class. I can. He can't."
Romney has said he was talking on the video about support for his campaign, a point he returned to Wednesday at the Miami forum hosted by the Spanish-language TV network Univision.
"I know that I'm not going to get 100 percent of the vote and my campaign will focus on those people we think we can bring in to support me, but this is a campaign about helping people who need help," Romney said.
"My campaign is about the 100 percent in America," he said.
The forum, which was broadcast nationally in Spanish from a swing state that could help decide the presidential contest, was an opportunity to court Hispanics. That growing voting bloc overwhelmingly supported President Barack Obama four years ago.
However, the televised session initially focused on the caught-on-tape remarks, the latest in a string of missteps on domestic and foreign policy for the Republican candidate seven weeks out from Election Day.
Speaking to Romney in Spanish, the Univision hosts peppered him with questions about the video before turning to his reluctance to clarify his immigration policy and to his support for Arizona's controversial immigration law.
Romney backed away from his support earlier in the year for policies that would promote "self-deportation" of illegal immigrants. He said he supported policies that might give legal status to young illegal immigrants who serve in the military or pursue higher education.
"We're not going to round up people around the country and deport them," he said. "We need to provide a long-term solution."
He declined to detail his solution, despite being pressed by the hosts.
Romney assailed Obama for failing to deliver campaign promises to overhaul the nation's immigration system.
"He never tried to fix the immigration system," Romney said of the Democratic incumbent. "I will actually reform the immigration system and make it work for the people of America."
The Obama campaign responded by arguing that Hispanic voters have reason not to trust Romney.
"On critical issues, he continued to refuse to answer any of the tough questions or provide any specifics on what he'd do as president," Obama campaign official Stephanie Cutter said in a statement.
Obama is scheduled to participate in the same forum on Thursday.