WASHINGTON -- Republican White House candidate Mitt Romney is offering new ideas on the controversial issues of taxes and immigration, sparking a fresh flashpoint with President Barack Obama before their inaugural debate Wednesday.
The GOP nominee suggested an option of limiting deductions to pay for his across-the-board income tax cut and revealed that he would honor temporary work permits for young illegal immigrants granted by the Obama administration.
"The people who have received the special visa that the president has put in place, which is a two-year visa, should expect that the visa would continue to be valid. I'm not going to take something that they've purchased," Romney told The Denver Post in an interview published Tuesday. "Before those visas have expired we will have the full immigration reform plan that I've proposed."
Obama announced in June that he would prevent deportation for some children brought to the United States by illegal immigrant parents. Applicants must not have a serious criminal record and must meet other requirements, such as graduating from high school or serving in the U.S. military.
The program closely tracked with the DREAM Act, a bill that failed to pass Congress that would have provided a path to legal status for many young illegal immigrants. Romney said during the Republican presidential primary campaign that he would veto DREAM Act legislation.
Obama campaign spokesman Gabriela Domenzain said Romney's statement to the Denver Post "raises more questions than it answers," including whether he would repeal Obama's policy or deport those who have received a deferment after two years.
"We know he called the DREAM Act a 'handout' and that he promised to veto it," Domenzain said. "Nothing he has said since contradicts this, and we should continue to take him at his word."
The Denver Post interview comes as Romney and Obama are fighting a heated battle for Colorado, whose significant Hispanic population could determine which candidate receives the state's nine electoral votes.
In another interview Monday with Denver television station KDVR, Romney laid out a possible scenario for paying for a proposal to cut all income tax rates by 20 percent. He's previously said the cuts would be funded by closing loopholes and deductions but that the specifics would have to be worked out with Congress.
"As an option you could say everybody's going to get up to a $17,000 deduction; and you could use your charitable deduction, your home mortgage deduction, or others -- your health care deduction, and you can fill that bucket, if you will, that $17,000 bucket that way," Romney said. "And higher income people might have a lower number."
The new details came as Romney and Obama went into seclusion Tuesday to practice for the debate, underscoring the high stakes for both in their first televised encounter. Obama is at a resort in Henderson, Nev., while Romney was spending most of the day in practice with plans to tour the debate stage set up on the University of Denver campus.
Romney and Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, playing Obama in their practice sessions, emerged for lunch at a Chipotle Mexican Grill down the street from their hotel, trailed by media taking pictures. The pair ordered pork burrito bowls, Romney ignored reporters' questions about how he was feeling going into the debates.
With just five weeks until Election Day, they dispatched their wives and running mates to court voters in key states, such as the critical battleground of Ohio, where early voting began Tuesday. Balloting already is under way in other states.
GOP vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan was visiting three Iowa towns during a bus tour while Vice President Joe Biden scheduled two events in North Carolina, another swing state. First lady Michelle Obama was campaigning in Ohio and Seattle, and Ann Romney was attending a rally in Littleton, outside Denver.
In Clinton, Iowa, a voter asked Ryan about video of Romney saying 47 percent of Americans don't pay income taxes and are dependent on government. The voter wanted to know if there is a way to collect something from everyone.
"I have an idea: Let's help them get jobs so they can get good paychecks and then they're good taxpayers," Ryan said. He did not mention that military members serving in war zones and retired seniors are among the millions of people who do not owe federal income taxes.
Ryan acknowledged, however, Romney's comments about those people muddled the political landscape.
"Sometimes the point doesn't get made the right way," he said.
Biden told about 1,000 supporters in Charlotte that Romney and Ryan don't give Americans enough credit for all the responsibility they take on.
"The question I have is: How could they have such a profound misunderstanding of the people of this country?" Biden said. "And folks, I've got news for Congressman Ryan and Gov. Romney. America's neither dependent nor in decline. And gentlemen, let me say it to you straight into the camera, it's never, never, never been a good bet to bet against the American people."