Scottsdale, Arizona (CNN) – Presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney said he wished the Supreme Court had given Arizona "more latitude" in its ruling on the state's controversial immigration law, saying the high court's decision undermined states' rights on the hotly-debated issue.
However, Romney saved most of his censure for President Barack Obama, accusing the president of creating a "muddle" over the issue and failing to lead on immigration reform.
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Romney's response to the ruling came at a Scottsdale, Arizona-area fund-raiser - coincidentally, the state at the heart of the controversy.
"I would have preferred to see the Supreme Court give more latitude to the states, not less," Romney told a group of donors at a fund-raiser at the Scottsdale Plaza Resort. "States now under this decision have less authority, less latitude to enforce immigration laws."
In a previous campaign statement, Romney had underlined his support for state-based solutions but had not weighed in on the specifics of the Supreme Court's ruling. Similarly, at his early afternoon event he did not address the specifics of Arizona's law or the provisions struck down by the court.
Instead, Romney said state legislators had passed the original measure because Obama had not tackled the nation's immigration policy on a federal level.
"Because he didn’t act, states and localities have tried to act and now the court's trying to get into it and sort things out and it’s a muddle," Romney said. "It’s a muddle because he failed to do what he said he’d do."
His remarks went further than the campaign’s comments on the ruling earlier Monday, when the GOP contender was barely visible to reporters traveling on his campaign plane en route to the Arizona fundraiser. After boarding the plane, the presumptive GOP nominee took off his suit jacket and sat down without acknowledging the gaggle of reporters sitting many rows back.
After Romney exited the plane in Phoenix, his traveling press secretary Rick Gorka parried reporters' questions in a roughly-seven minute exchange about the campaign's position on the court's decision. Gorka did not say whether the candidate agreed with the high court's ruling that found parts of Arizona's immigration law unconstitutional.
When pressed by reporters whether Romney was for or against the decision, Gorka repeatedly referred back to the written statement reinforcing Romney's view that states have the right "to secure our borders and preserve the rule of law."
"This country would be better served if the president wasn't suing states, but if the president was actually fulfilling his campaign promises to enact an immigration policy," Gorka told reporters.
Here's a sample of the exchange with reporters:
QUESTION: Does the Governor have a position on the Arizona law besides supporting the right of states?
GORKA: "This debate is sprung from the president failing to address this issue, so each state is left and has the power to draft and enact their own immigration policy."
QUESTION: But the Arizona law does very specific things, does the governor support those things that the Arizona law does?
GORKA: "We've addressed this."
QUESTION: What is his position on the actual law in Arizona?
GORKA: "Again, each state has the right within the Constitution to craft their own immigration laws since the federal government has failed."
QUESTION: But what does he think about the law in Arizona? You're just talking about the state's right to have a law but you're not giving any position on the actual law.
GORKA: "Ultimately this debate comes back down to the federal government and the president failing to address this. If the president followed through on his campaign promise to address illegal immigration in the first year, this debate wouldn¹t be necessary."
QUESTION: Is it fair to say that he has no opinion on the Arizona law?
GORKA: "Look, again, I¹ll say it again and again and again for you. The governor understands that states have their own right to craft policies to secure their own borders and to address illegal immigration."
As Gorka was speaking, Romney exited the plane and hopped in his ride to a nearby fundraiser, away from the view of photographers.
- CNN's Matt Hoye contributed to this article.