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GOP Candidates Stuck Between Rock and Hard Place on Immigration: Angle, Rubio, Whitman in Conflict

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Recent developments in three high-profile 2010 races highlight the dynamics at play for Republican candidates on immigration, who play to an anti-immigrant faction of the base during the primaries and struggle to change gears to compete for Latino voters in the general election.

According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice:

After vicious primary battles on immigration, there’s really no place to go for GOP candidates when it comes to immigration and Latino outreach. In high-profile California, Nevada, and Florida races, Republican candidates who tack hard right during the primaries are struggling to compete for Latino votes in the general election.  We’re seeing a lot of muddled messages, outright hypocrisy, and appeals that differ depending on the audience and the language.  But Latino voters will not view this kindly.  Until Republican politicians find a way to be for Latino voters during the primary and the general election, the GOP will struggle to compete in a growing number of races where Latino voters matter.

Here’s a breakdown:

  • Meg Whitman on Comprehensive Immigration Reform – What a Difference a Year Makes: Last October, standing near the U.S./Mexico border in San Diego, Meg Whitman voiced her support for comprehensive immigration reform, saying, “Can we get a fair program where people stand at the back of the line, they pay a fine, they do some things that would ultimately allow a path to legalization?”  Then, during a bruising primary campaign against Steve Poizner, she pivoted to the right on immigration to appeal to the Republican base.  Heading into the general election, Whitman appeared to be making a play for Latino voters – and making progress with them – by sponsoring a series of Spanish-language ads and billboards highlighting her opposition to Arizona’s ‘papers please’ SB1070 law and California’s notorious 1994 anti-immigrant ballot initiative Proposition 187.  New Los Angeles Times polling found that Latinos favor Democratic nominee Jerry Brown by a 19-point margin over Whitman, a much tighter margin than the Carly Fiorina-Barbara Boxer Senate race (in which Fiorina has done much less to moderate her tone).  But Whitman is unable to shed the ghosts of her primary past, and stayed right during last night’s high-stakes debate by reiterating her opposition to offering a “path to legalization” for the undocumented.  So much for being a different kind of Republican. Now, media is buzzing with breaking allegations by Whitman’s former housekeeper that she “suffered” as an undocumented immigrant employee of the candidate. This ought to be interesting.