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Greg Sargent Sums It Up: “Donald Trump Is A Black Hole, Sucking In All His GOP Rivals”

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Republicans have allowed Donald Trump to completely dominate their debate on immigration. When RNC Chair Reince Priebus called for immigration reform in 2013, Trump’s position today is, “They have to go.” And, Republican candidates have followed right along with his extremist rhetoric.

An example of this shift to the right was Ted Cruz’s interview with Bill O’Reilly last night. “Yes, we should deport them,” Cruz told him about the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the US. O’Reilly asked if ICE agents would be actively be looking for immigrants, and Cruz responded “That’s what ICE exists for. We have law enforcement that looks for people who are violating the laws, that apprehends them and deports them.”

As Greg Sargent of The Plum Line summarized, this “is being widely portrayed in the press and on Twitter as a flip flop, in which Cruz previously said he wouldn’t undertake mass deportations but now says he would. But this isn’t really accurate.” But, more importantly, the exchange actually showcases “the extraordinary pressure that Trump has exerted on GOP politicians to continue lurching ever rightward on immigration”:

At several points, Cruz agrees that enforcement agents should search out and deport undocumented immigrants. But all he means by this is that agents currently do this. Cruz never says here that he’d dramatically increase investments in proactive round-’em-up efforts, which is the Trump position (Trump also claims he’d accomplish this through “good management,” whatever that means).

But this is still very significant, because it once again reveals the extraordinary pressure that Trump has exerted on GOP politicians to continue lurching ever rightward on immigration. What Cruz confirms here is that he would cancel Obama’s enforcement priorities, i.e., the administration’s decision to de-prioritize the removals of longtime residents who are low-level offenders and have ties to communities. (This is distinct from Obama’s executive actions deferring their deportation, which all the GOP candidates also oppose and which are more formal than the 2011 statement of enforcement priorities that preceded them.) Cruz would end not just Obama’s executive actions; he would also do away with the underlying guidelines that Obama has instituted that de-prioritize the removals of longtime residents.

The real tell here, though, is that Cruz tries to get to Trump’s right, by saying: “The biggest difference between Donald Trump and Marco Rubio and myself is that both Donald Trump and Marco Rubio would allow those 12 million people to become U.S. citizens.” There is actually some truth to this. Trump has said he’d let the “good ones” back, though no one knows what this means. Rubio has indeed left the door open to citizenship later. But Cruz has flatly ruled out legalization of undocumented immigrants currently here forever.

In another must-read piece today, “When Will Republicans Start Recognizing How Screwed They Are?”, Brian Beutler confronts the dilemma facing the Republican Party as a whole as a general election creeps closer and the party’s nominee could very well be Trump:

The very idea that Trump will encounter resistance outside the South is based on a simplistic and doubly inapt conception of “moderation.” The first premise is that, by promising to appeal outside of the Republican Party’s typical constituencies, Rubio is by definition more moderate than Trump; the second is that appealing to the center in a general election is no different than appealing to “moderate” Republicans in a GOP primary.

If this race is proving anything, though, it’s that what constitutes “moderation” to elite conservatives (relative dovishness on immigration aimed at swing voters in a general election) isn’t what constitutes moderation among Republican voters (restrictionist immigration policy paired with heterodox support for redistributive social policies). The big flaw in the assumption that Rubio (or anyone, really) can make up ground against Trump in blue states is that “moderate” voters are actually Trump’s ace in the hole.

This appeal very likely extends to nominally moderate Republican voters in the interior West and California, where Republicans will cotton to Trump’s anti-immigration absolutism.

Tuesday night’s Nevada caucus will be an important test of GOP faith. Does Trump have a ceiling? Can Rubio further consolidate the field? Is Cruz’s end beginning? The polling on all of these questions should chasten the right. And in a way, the New Hampshire and South Carolina primaries already revealed how prohibitive Trump’s odds of becoming the GOP nominee have become. Trump lapped the field in a moderate state, and then he did almost as well in a state that should have been fairly hostile to his mix of feigned religiosity, anti-Bushism, and unflinching hawkishness.

If Trump prevails once again, perhaps the conservative establishment will set aside its contrived obsession with whose second- or third-place finish was the most inspiring, and accept that peering past the behemoth in front of them won’t make him disappear.

And finally, the Washington Post Editorial Board slams Reince Priebus and other Republican Party leaders for their silence and acquiescence to Trump in the face of his unbridled bigotry since the launch of his Presidential campaign in June of last year, where he called Mexican immigrants criminals and “rapists”:

ABC’s George Stephanopoulos asked Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus whether the party would back Donald Trump should he win the GOP nomination. “Yes, we will support the nominee,” the Republican chairman replied. “To me, it’s a no-brainer.” Mr. Stephanopoulos asked if a Trump nomination would split the party. “Winning is the antidote to a lot of things,” Mr. Priebus responded.

Winning can quiet many complaints, it is true. But it cannot and will not be an antidote to the moral poison of Mr. Trump’s campaign. Party leaders who support and celebrate his victory will be accomplices to an attack on the fundamental values of American democracy. Winning will not wash away the stain.

Like many GOP leaders, Mr. Priebus has shown that he knows that Mr. Trump is a problem. He condemned Mr. Trump’s plan to ban Muslims from entering the United States. But, also like many top Republicans, the party chairman has nevertheless given Mr. Trump a wide berth to run a flamboyant insult of a campaign.