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GOPers Who Want to Wait on Immigration Reform Should Look at Texas

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Texas is suddenly looking very 2012.

The primary campaign for the Texas Lieutenant Governor’s seat is in full swing, which means that the four Republican candidates are currently working overtime to appeal to Tea Party voters.  On immigration, that means they’re trying to out-tough each other on enforcement by making repeated references to “amnesty” and “invasions.”

Sound familiar?

In their debate last week, the four Republicans fell back on anti-immigrant punchlines rather than trying to actually address immigration reform.  As the blog Burnt Orange Report noted:

Stop the invasion,” said Sen. Dan Patrick.

“Without path to citizenship,” said Commissioner Jerry Patterson.

“Well, building on what Jerry said and what I think the four of us are saying,” said Lt. Governor David Dewhurst.

“Do I get to have a chance?” said Commissioner Todd Staples.

That’s hardly the only instance.  One of the candidates, state Sen. Dan Patrick recently challenged San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro to an immigration debate, calling Castro the “immigrant invasion mayor.”  The current Lieutenant Governor, David Dewhurst — who is running for re-election — had to walk back his support for guest-worker programs after catching heat from Tea Party conservatives.  A third candidate, Commissioner Todd Staples, has claimed border security as an issue, publishing a book and running a website on the topic.

The GOP candidates’ bull-headedness on the issue seems to be whistling past Dixie considering Texas’ large Latino population — the main reason why pollsters and demographers expect the state to eventually turn blue.  As a press release from the Texas Democratic Party recently noted, the GOP Lieutenant Governor candidates may be playing it up for Tea Partiers — but they’re not offering any solutions for Texans, many of whom might have family members or friends who are undocumented.

As Texas Democratic Party Communications Director Emmanuel Garcia said in the press release, “Extremist ideology is simply standing in the way of common sense. Even Rick Perry must be mumbling ‘you don’t have a heart’ when he heard his Republican colleagues on stage tonight.”

This particular election in Texas also holds meaning for Republicans on the national stage, particularly House GOPers who — after releasing their statement of principles on immigration last week — are debating whether to pursue legislation this year or next.  Greg Sargent and Matt Lewis have already published posts encouraging Republicans to take action this year rather than waiting, because by 2015 the presidential primary season will be underway, and who knows how far right Republicans will find themselves tacking once that happens.

Sargent and Lewis are right.  If the current Texas Lieutenant Governor primary is at all indicative of how Republicans must continue to kowtow to Tea Party absolutism, 2015 and the national primaries will be another showcase for the kind of red meat that turns off Latino voters (and women, and gays).  And then Republicans will be right back where they started — losing national elections ala 2012.