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Memo To Steve King: Immigration Reform Won't Decide Iowa GOP Caucus

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That font of political wisdom on the politics of immigration, Steve King, has some advice for Marco Rubio:

Rep. Steve King (R-IA), the tea party stalwart and potential 2014 U.S. Senate candidate, thinks Sen. Marco Rubio (R-IA) has hurt his 2016 prospects in Iowa with his leading role on immigration reform, according to story published Monday by the Washington Examiner.

“Rubio seems to be so damaged it will be very difficult for him to recover here in Iowa,” King told the Examiner’s Byron York in an email. “My perspective is that the immigration issue will sort Republican candidates.”

Just because Steve King says it, doesn’t make it true. Here’s the thing: Extensive polling of Iowa caucus-goers back in 2012 found that immigration was, in fact, not a top-tier, decisive issue. And, remember, immigration was a frequent topic of discussion at GOP debates. It was front and center, yet didn’t have the impact King ascribes to it. Here’s what we wrote back in December of 2011:

For years, anti-immigrant activists have scared Republican officials into thinking that GOP voters are rabidly anti-immigrant and oppose any candidate who supports common sense reform. The recent ascent of Newt Gingrich, who has weathered attacks from enforcement-only candidate Mitt Romney over his immigration position, demonstrates conclusively that this line of thinking is wrong.  Furthermore, several recent polls of likely Republican caucus-goers in Iowa show that illegal immigration is not a huge issue for Republican voters, but their views on what to do about it are much closer to those of the rest of America than those of the far right.  Like Latinos and other Americans, most Republicans support comprehensive reform which includes a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.

Steve King’s views on immigration were parroted by Mitt Romney. In fact, Mitt Romney’s promise to veto the DREAM Act came at an Iowa Caucus event in King’s District. We saw how that worked for the GOP back in 2012. Romney lost Latino voters by a huge margin — and that helped lead to his defeat.

As Frank Sharry tweeted yesterday:

#ByronYork, weak argument! When has Iowa played kingmaker? GOP picks conservative who can win, not Iowa winner.

In a last ditch effort to stall immigration reform, King is using the only remaining power he as left — the political capital from the Iowa Caucuses — to prevent what’s becoming the inevitable. But instead of stopping reform, Steve King is driving his party off the demographic cliff — and potentially making the Iowa GOP Caucuses irrelevant. If the GOP is faced again with the decision between the Iowa Caucus and the Latino vote, they’ll know this time which one to choose.