* Obama says Republicans are alienating Hispanics
* Predicts deficit-reduction deal with Republicans
* Launches eight-state trip; Romney in Iowa, Nevada
By Jeff Mason
DAVENPORT, Iowa, Oct 24 President Barack Obama
predicted passage of immigration reform and a deficit-reduction
deal, in a fresh glimpse of his second-term agenda, even as he
fights for votes in the final stretch of the tight race before
the Nov. 6 election.
In a newspaper interview released on Wednesday ahead of an
eight-state campaigning blitz, Obama suggested Republicans were
bolstering his re-election effort by alienating Hispanics.
He told the Des Moines Register he was confident that
comprehensive immigration reform would be approved next year and
predicted he would strike a deal with Republicans in the U.S.
Congress within six months to reduce the budget deficit.
He made the comments in an interview that was originally off
the record. After the newspaper complained about the
restriction, the White House released a transcript.
"Since this is off the record, I will just be very blunt.
Should I win a second term, a big reason I will win a second
term is because the Republican nominee and the Republican Party
have so alienated the fastest-growing demographic group in the
country, the Latino community," Obama said in the interview with
the Register's editorial board.
Republican candidate Mitt Romney has joined many in his
party in taking a tough approach to illegal immigration.
The growing clout of Hispanics could make a difference in
battleground states like Nevada, Colorado, Florida, Virginia and
Two weeks before the election, Obama and Romney are locked
in a close battle for the White House and are competing
furiously for key voting blocs.
The vital women constituency came to the forefront on
Wednesday with a controversy over comments about rape by Indiana
Republican Senate candidate Richard Mourdock.
Obama's campaign moved quickly to link Romney with Mourdock,
who said in a debate with Democrat Joe Donnelly on Tuesday that
pregnancy caused by rape is "something God intended to happen."
Obama believed the comment was "outrageous and demeaning to
women," said campaign spokeswoman Jen Psaki, adding that she was
perplexed that Romney would not demand an ad he filmed in
support of Mourdock be taken off the air.
'A REMINDER' ON WOMEN'S HEALTHCARE
"This is a reminder that a Republican Congress working with
a Republican president, Mitt Romney, would feel that women
should not be able to make choices about their own healthcare,"
Psaki told reporters on the flight to Iowa.
Romney's campaign tried to distance him from Mourdock's
remark, saying it did not reflect his views. But has not
demanded the ad be pulled. Obama has criticized Romney for his
opposition to abortion rights except in cases of rape, incest or
the health of the mother.
The controversy was reminiscent of the uproar over Missouri
Republican Senate candidate Todd Akin's comments earlier this
year that women's bodies have defenses against pregnancy after
Polls show a deadlocked race nationally. A Reuters/Ipsos
online tracking poll gave Romney a 1-point edge on Wednesday, 47
percent to Obama's 46 percent.
With the race so close, both candidates were stepping up
their campaign schedules. Obama plans to visit eight states in a
two-day marathon and will sleep on Air Force One on Wednesday
night. Romney will hit Nevada and Iowa on Wednesday before
spending a full day in Ohio on Thursday.
Obama's trip is designed to build momentum from two strong
debate performances that put his campaign back on a solid
footing after Romney bested him in their first debate.
Romney has narrowed the gap on Obama or moved slightly ahead
in eight swing states that will decide which candidate gains the
270 electoral votes needed for victory.
The Romney campaign has painted Obama's trip and his attacks
as signs of desperation. It zeroed in on the Obama campaign's
decision to print 3.5 million copies of a brochure laying out
his promises for a second term.
"President Obama proved once again today that his campaign
is getting smaller and smaller as Election Day approaches," said
Romney spokesman Ryan Williams.
"Another four years of President Obama's policies will mean
lower incomes, higher taxes, and more debt. A glossy brochure
full of the same policies that haven't worked over the last four
years is no substitute for a real agenda that will help grow the
middle class and restore America's strength," he said.
Billionaire real estate mogul and television personality
Donald Trump, a persistent Obama critic who toyed with the idea
of seeking the 2012 Republican nomination, offered on Wednesday
to give $5 million to the charity of Obama's choice if he
released his college and passport records.
Trump, who has questioned whether Obama's birth certificate
issued by the state of Hawaii is legitimate, did not say what he
expected the records to reveal. However, he asserted in a
YouTube video released via his Twitter and Facebook pages that
Obama is the "least transparent president in the history of the