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So this is interesting.
A piece yesterday at Salon discusses a trick that the National Republican Congressional Committee is trying to pull in Colorado, where it is attacking former Colorado House Speaker Andrew Romanoff (D) from the left on immigration. A website set up by the NRCC slams Romanoff for “lik[ing] to waste taxpayer dollars almost as much as he likes the strictest immigration laws in the nation he passed as Speaker of the Colorado House.” Yes, that’s the NRCC attacking a Democrat for being too tough on immigration–the same NRCC that represents horribly anti-immigrant House Republicans including Reps. Lamar Smith (R-TX), Louie Gohmert (R-TX), Steve King (R-IA) and Lou Barletta (R-PA). Typically, the NRCC has been the type of outfit to run ads against Democrats for pro-immigrant stances, not anti-immigrant positions. It’s a mark of where the political landscape on immigration is these days that the NRCC finds itself taking this tactic in Colorado.
According to Salon:
Indeed, Romanoff helped pass “several bills that Democrats call the toughest in the nation,” as the AP reported at the time. But the NRCC hit runs into trouble once you finish reading that sentence from the AP: “… and Republicans say don’t go far enough.” Even though the state’s Republican governor signed the bill, “Republicans said the legislation still left glaring loopholes, including allowing benefits for minors.” And this was 2006, long before Arizona’s SB-1070 and its copycat laws in Alabama, South Carolina and elsewhere. Since then, the GOP moved further to the right on immigration while Romanoff moved left, even earning jabs for flip-flopping.
Romanoff is the guy running against Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO), whom we’ve written about before as a GOPer who’s very recently changed his tune on immigration. Coffman is well-known for a 2012 birther rant, opposed birthright citizenship, proposed a bill that would make voting ballots English-only, signed an amicus brief supporting Arizona’s SB 1070 anti-immigrant law, and once called the DREAM Act a “nightmare.” But this year, after his Colorado district was redrawn to include nearly three times the number of Latinos it had before the 2012 election, Coffman suddenly tacked more to the center and came out in support of legal status for DREAMers.
As he said at the time to Politico: “My district dramatically changed. In the district I had until last month, there wasn’t a significant Hispanic population, and with the population I had, immigration wasn’t a significant issue. In the district I have now, there is a significant Hispanic population. And meeting with those people really put a face on it.
And now the National Republican Congressional Committee is trying to paint Coffman as more open to immigration and immigrants’ concerns than Romanoff, who criticized Arizona and SB 1070. Our take? (And this goes for the rest of the GOP, at a time when many realize that their party must support immigration reform to preserve their demographic future, while others are still trying to kill the process.) If you want to want to win more Latino voters by criticizing the other guy’s immigration record, it helps a lot if you can credibly claim that you’re good on immigration.
The NRCC should highlight Romanoff’s previous stances and bad positions on immigration. But they can’t credibly do so until Coffman, the candidate who would benefit from these ads, figures out what side he is really on. Recent Latino Decisions polling has found that 61% of Obama-supporting Latino voters nationwide would vote for a pro-immigration reform Republican over an anti-immigrant Democrat. The key part of that statement though, is that you have to be a pro-immigration reform Republican—and mean it. Otherwise, as Alex Seitz-Wald wrote in Salon, “it’s impossible to outflank [the guy you’re attacking] from the left and mean it.”
As for Romanoff? We’ve warned Democrats as well that they have to earn their margins with Latino voters by leaning into immigration (among other issues). As the Colorado Observer noted, his anti-immigrant votes remain a “political bludgeon” for opponents to use against him.