Two top surrogates for Mitt Romney declined after the debate at Hofstra Tuesday to outline their candidate’s position on Arizona’s immigration law and the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. During the debate, President Obama specifically charged Romney with ducking questions about both laws.
“I just want to point out that when Governor Romney’s campaign was asked about the Lilly Ledbetter bill, whether he supported it, he said, ‘I’ll get back to you,’” Obama said in the debate. “And that’s not the kind of advocacy that women need in any economy.”
TPM asked Kerry Healey, Romney’s former lieutenant governor in Massachusetts, if she could rebut Obama by describing the governor’s position on that bill.
“He’s not going to have his campaign defined by what the Obama campaign wants to talk about,” she replied. “Governor Romney gave the answer that women need to know, which is that he has deliberately gone out and made sure that women were well represented and well treated and respected in his workplace and he wants to make sure that that’s the case in workplaces around the country.”
As for the specific bill: “Saying ‘will you sign this, would you support that,’ this is just a campaign tactic,” she said. “I think you should look at what Mitt Romney has done.”
Obama pressed Romney on immigration as well in the debate, saying he had called Arizona’s immigration bill a “model for the nation” and that he used its architect, Kris Kobach, as an immigration advisor.
Romney responded that his “model for the nation” line was about employer verification systems.
TPM asked Healey if she could offer up her take on whether Romney agrees or disagrees with the broader law based on Kobach’s presence on the campaign.
“We actually had no idea what he was referring to in that regard,” she said. “I have no personal familiarity with this person, but I can tell you it is true that he was only referring to the e-verify portion of this bill that he considers to be a model for the nation.”
Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) told TPM the campaign was trying not to be dragged into the discussion Obama raised by bringing up the two bills.
“The Obama campaign from the very beginning has tried to make this a small ball campaign about tax returns, about Bain Capital, about contraception, about Big Bird,” he said. “That’s not what people are voting on. People are hurting right now in America.”
Benjy Sarlin is a reporter for Talking Points Memo and co-writes the campaign blog, TPM2012. He previously reported for The Daily Beast/Newsweek as their Washington Correspondent and covered local politics for the New York Sun.