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The Brief: Sept. 18, 2012

Mitt Romney's push on Monday to refocus his campaign on policy issues — including immigration — was instead engulfed by the latest controversy to hit the presidential race.

Mitt Romney during a campaign stop at the Family Table Restaurant in Atlantic, Iowa, on Jan. 1, 2012.

The Big Conversation:

Mitt Romney's push on Monday to refocus his campaign on policy issues — including immigration — was instead engulfed by the latest controversy to hit the presidential race.

Amid reports of campaign infighting and hand-wringing among conservatives about his position in polls, Romney on Monday debuted a new strategy centering on a broader yet more specific critique of President Barack Obama. Advisers said Romney would focus on a larger set of issues, including foreign policy and the national debt, while providing more details about his economic plans.

Romney touched on those topics while speaking Monday at the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce convention in Los Angeles.

"No one is exempt from the pain of this economy, but the Hispanic community has been particularly hard hit," Romney told the audience in a speech that also included praise for U.S. Senate candidate Ted Cruz. "Over 2 million more Hispanics are living in poverty today than the day President Obama took office." Romney also said he would "permanently" fix the U.S. immigration system.

But any success Romney may have had in seizing control of the race appeared to have been blunted by the unearthing of a video recorded in May in which the candidate at a private event for wealthy donors described 47 percent of Americans as "people who will vote for the president no matter what … who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it."

In the video, he adds: "My job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives."

Uproar over the video, which was obtained by Mother Jones, even led Romney to hold a press conference on Monday night in which he defended his comments but admitted that they were "not elegantly stated."

How long the controversy will linger remains unclear, but with just 49 days left until the election, the room for error — for both candidates — continues to narrow.

Culled:

  • The Texas Supreme Court will hear arguments today in a case challenging the constitutionality of the state's franchise tax. In the suit, food giant Nestle USA and two Texas-based companies claim that the tax — also called the margins tax — violates their equal protection rights by levying different rates. As the Austin American-Statesman notes, the margins tax amounted to the second-largest pot of revenue for the state last fiscal year, meaning that a ruling against it would likely force the Legislature to write and pass an entirely new business tax.
  • U.S. Senate candidates Ted Cruz and Paul Sadler have agreed to a second debate that will be held in Dallas on Oct. 19 and hosted by PBS affiliate KERA. The Tribune and Univision are among the sponsors. The two candidates had already agreed to debate for the first time on Oct. 2 at a forum hosted by Dallas' WFAA.
  • The Associated Press reports that more than 130 inmates escaped from a Mexican prison near the Texas border on Monday. A wave of drug cartel violence has recently swept through Coahuila, the state in which the escape occurred, but authorities would not say whether the incident was linked to the recent arrest of Gulf cartel leader Jorge Eduardo Costilla Sanchez.

"And so those of us who have said yes [to Mitt Romney], we're going to support him as the lesser of two evils, but at the same time, we're making very clear that we're doing so realizing Mormonism is not Christianity." — The Rev. Robert Jeffress of Dallas, who last year called Mormonism a cult, to a gathering of pastors in San Antonio on Monday

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