* 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 (Reuters) - 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 Ohio.
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 “legitimate rape.”
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 country.”