NEWARK, Ohio -- Mitt Romney criticized President Barack Obama's decision to stop deporting some illegal immigrants who were brought to the United States as children as an election-year political move, but he repeatedly declined in an interview Sunday to lay out an alternative plan.
The presumptive Republican presidential nominee said he wants a "long-term solution," unlike what he derided as Mr. Obama's "stopgap measure," but would not say what it would entail other than to provide permanent residency to those who serve in the military.
"With regards to these kids who were brought in by their parents through no fault of their own, there needs to be a long-term solution so they know what their status is," Mr. Romney said on CBS's "Face the Nation."
Mr. Romney's struggle to offer a clear alternative on the immigration issue was a fresh reminder of one of the challenges he faces, which is to go beyond his steady criticism of the president with a more detailed description of the policies he would implement to replace what Mr. Obama has done.
Immigration is a problem particularly because of conservative stances Mr. Romney took during the Republican primary campaign that now could cause him difficulty in appealing to Hispanic voters in the general election. But even regarding the biggest issue of the campaign -- the economy -- there are many unanswered questions as to what he would do.
Mr. Romney is midway through a bus tour of six potential battleground states, and on Sunday he stumped across the most critical of all: Ohio. He spoke at a pancake breakfast in Brunswick and a rally in the town square of Newark and then campaigned with House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, at a hamburger shop in Troy.
But his speeches were short and general. At the rally in Newark, Mr. Romney revved up a couple of thousand supporters by promising to "shock the world with how our economy's coming back," but offered only broad outlines and few specifics.
The sometimes hoarse, soon-to-be Republican nominee worked to be heard over shouts of protesters during a nine-minute speech to some 1,000 people gathered on the Licking County Courthouse square in Newark, about 40 miles east of Columbus.
"I'm optimistic about the future, Ohio," he said. "... I'm convinced that the American people are going to be surprised about how great this economy can be.
"... If we take advantage of a different course from the one that's been pursued by this president, if we turn away from the path of Europe with big government and big taxes and government health care, America is going to see a very different dream for the future."
He reminded the Father's Day crowd of Mr. Obama's comment earlier this month that the private sector is doing fine.
"He's trying to convince us he's made things better," Mr. Romney said. "... You know what? Twenty-three million people who are out of work or stopped looking for work may have something to say about that. People who've seen their incomes go down may have something to say about that. ... This president has not succeeded. He deserves to go home."
The Newark event, held just about one block from Mr. Obama's local campaign headquarters, was intimate enough that just two dozen protesters were able to challenge the candidate in terms of volume, shouting about jobs and birth control. Mr. Romney's wife, Ann, acknowledged them while on stage with him.
"We can be just as loud about how much we love this country," she said.
Mr. Romney's "Every Town Counts" tour, his first traditional bus tour of the campaign, is hitting six swing states. It rolled through New Hampshire and Pennsylvania before reaching Ohio on Sunday and now heads for Wisconsin, Iowa and, finally, his home state of Michigan.
All six states were in the Obama column in 2008, but are considered in play for Mr. Romney this time around.
The renewed spotlight on immigration comes as Mr. Romney tries to narrow Mr. Obama's wide lead among Hispanic voters. The candidates will address a national group of Latino officials this week in Orlando, Fla.
Mr. Romney made his first extensive comments in the CBS interview about immigration policy since Mr. Obama's announcement Friday regarding the citizenship status of child immigrants who go on to become law-abiding residents.
When anchor Bob Schieffer asked Mr. Romney whether he would repeal Mr. Obama's policy, he said: "Well, it would be overtaken by events, if you will, by virtue of my putting in place a long-term solution, with legislation which creates law that relates to these individuals such that they know what their setting is going to be, not just for the term of a president but on a permanent basis."
The Blade of Toledo, Ohio, contributed. First Published June 18, 2012 12:00 AM