Romney carefully returns to immigration issue as November election approaches

Mitt Romney appears to be softening his stance on illegal immigration in what may be an attempt to appeal to Hispanics, independents and other key voters he’ll need to defeat President Obama.

Romney said Monday he would consider a plan by Florida GOP Sen. Marco Rubio that would allow some children of illegal immigrants to remain legally in the country without giving them full citizenship. He stopped short of fully embracing the plan by the Cuban-American senator as they campaigned together in Pennsylvania ahead of the state’s Tuesday primary.

“I’m taking a look at his proposal,” Romney said. “It has many features to commend it, but it’s something we’re studying.”

Though far from a concrete endorsement, Romney's comments were notable, considering he has said he would veto the so-called DREAM Act if he were president and it arrived on his desk. Rubio's proposal bares similarities to that bill, but Romney pointed to a key distinction -- the DREAM Act proposal allows for a path to citizenship, while Rubio’s instead appears to offer only visas.

Rubio is considered a top vice presidential candidate who could help Romney win some of the Hispanic votes that propelled Obama to victory in 2008. He has said his plan was to craft a GOP immigration plan that Romney could embrace.

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Still, Romney must walk a fine line in restating his position to a general election audience. He took a hard-line stance during the primaries to win over conservatives, including attacks on Texas Gov. Rick Perry for supporting tuition breaks for children of illegal immigrants.

Romney’s conservative credentials have been questioned since the start of the 2012 campaign, largely because of his evolving views on abortion and gay rights. Yet on immigration, he was to the right of most candidates in the GOP primary throughout the race.

Romney said Monday that his campaign would announce within the coming months a series of policies related to immigration, with the “obvious, first priority” being a plan to secure the U.S.-Mexico border.