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Benjy Sarlin: Reluctance to Support Immigration Reform Could Hurt GOPers Like Cory Gardner

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Last week, we held a press conference about California, the harbinger / danger story of a state that illustrates what happens to Republicans who remain obstinate on issues like immigration reform, when they represent a place defined by demographic change.  The same day on MSNBC, Benjy Sarlin published an excellent longread about Colorado, another state where immigration reform is becoming a definitive political issue.

Colorado is a state in transition, a place where infamous hardliner Tom Tancredo used to hold a Congressional seat before he was run out of office, where Rep. Mike Coffman used to campaign about his alliance with Tancredo but has since come out in favor of immigration reform and citizenship, where anti-immigrant crusader Ken Buck recently joined onto the Colorado Compact–an open letter endorsing immigration reform.  The subject of the piece, Rep. Cory Gardner (R-CO-4), is no hardliner–he’s pressed immigration advocates to talk up the economic benefits of reform in order to help make the case on why we need it.  But unlike Coffman, he has yet to come out in favor of a path to citizenship.

As Benjy Sarlin makes clear, that reluctance could hurt Gardner if he decides to run for higher office.  As the numbers break down:

If there’s one thing Republicans have learned over the last few years, it’s that what plays well in Greeley doesn’t always translate outside of it.

Buck discovered the hard way that his anti-immigration posture made him repellent to Latinos. In 2010 he ran for Senate only to lose 81% of the Latino vote and the election to incumbent Democrat Michael Bennett. The same year, Tancredo lost 86% of the Latino vote in a three-way gubernatorial race against Governor John Hickenlooper. Two years later, Democrats captured solid majorities in the state legislature while 75% of Latinos voted for Obama over Mitt Romney in 2012.

Latino voters aren’t the only reason for the state GOP’s implosion, but it’s hard to imagine the party bouncing back without them. The Latino share of Colorado’s electorate jumped from 8% in 2004 to 14% in 2012 and demographic trends suggest it will keep rising.

Colorado is a good example, but far from the only example, of places where Republicans will seriously be in electoral danger if they don’t take action on immigration reform.

Read Benjy Sarlin’s full story here, or watch the video clip below:

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