Mitt Romney fielded questions from Univision anchor Jorge Ramos at the Spanish-language network's "Meet The Candidates" forum at Miami-Dade College. Later he took a handful of questions from the audience. Total time was about 22 minutes:
Q: "You only paid 13 percent of taxes while most Americans paid much more than that. Is that fair?"
Romney said the average is almost 15 percent. "Also on top of that, I gave another 15 percent to charity. When you add it together....I think it reaches almost 40 percent I gave back to the community....I have a proposal for those in middle income. Anyone earning under $200,000 a year, I would propose paying no tax whatsoever on their savings. I think the people have been most hurt in the Obama economy should be able to save money tax-free."
Q: "How much money do you have?"
Romney: "I think the estimate is a pretty wide range. It's been widely reported. My net worth is within that number. It is between $150 and about $200 some odd million dollars. I didn't inherit that. I inherited no money. What my wife and I have, we earned. And we earned it by helping start businesses and being successful in the businesses that we ran."
Q: "Newt Gingrich called you anti-immigrant. This morning he told me that you have shown no humanity for the people that are here (illegal). He called your self-deportation plan a fantasy. Now, how are you going to convince millions of illegal immigrants to go back to poverty and violence?"
Romney: "Very sad for a candidate to resort to that kind of epithet. We don’t attack each other with those kinds of terrible terms. I am not anti-immigrant. I am pro-immigrant. I like immigration. Immigration has been an extraordinary source of strength in this country. Romney said that Gingrich has said previously that he was in favor of self-deportation.
"I recognize that it is very tempting to come into an audience like this and to pander to the audience and to say what you will hope people will want to hear. But, frankly, I think that's unbecoming of a presidential candidate, and I think that was a mistake on his part.
Q: How is that going to work?
Romney: "You have identification for those people who come here legally, which allows them to work in the United States. Then you have in place an effective E-verify system that allows employes to check that documentation immediately. And you severely santion employers who hire people who do not have legal documentation and who do not have authorization to work here.
"I'm not in favor of going around the country trying to round people up, put them in buses and take them across the border."
Q: "Your father was born in Mexico. Are you a Mexican-American? Could you be the first Hispanic president?
Romney: "I would love to be able to convince people of that, particularly in a Florida primary" (laughing). But I think that might be disingenuous on my part.....He [George Romney] was born of U.S. citizens who were living in Mexico at the time. He never spoke Spanish, nor did his parents. So I can't claim that honor.... I don't think people would think I was being honest with them if I said I was Mexican-American.
Q: "Would you consider Newt Gingrich as your running mate?"
Romney: "At this stage, if he were the V.P. and I were the president, why that's something I would consider. But I have to be honest with you. I haven't made any considerations as to who would be my V.P. at this point. I think it would be presumptuous. I've got to become the nominee first. And then I have to defeat President Obama. And then I get the privilege of having a vice president. So I've got a ways to go before I get to that point."
Q: Do you think Puerto Rico should become the 51st state?
Romney: "Should be left up to the people of Puerto Rico."
---- Clark Spencer