From Elise Foley comes a must-read piece on the immigration conundrum facing the national Republican Party as it enters the 2016 Presidential election.
Following Mitt Romney’s 2012 landslide defeat among Latinos — thanks in huge part to his failed “self-deportation” policy — some GOP strategists realized the party needed a complete immigration overhaul if it ever hoped to recapture the White House again.
But, as Foley notes, a number of Republican candidates for President in 2016 inexplicably seem intent on repeating the same kind of hardliner stance that sent Romney packing home.
Now Republican strategists are — yet again — warning candidates that Romney 2.0 stances could very well set the stage for the party’s third straight Presidential loss.
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who have advocated for reform in the past, are currently doing the best job of appealing to Latino voters, conservative operatives told HuffPost. Bush has said he wants to end Obama’s deportation relief programs and replace them with broad immigration reform that would allow undocumented immigrants to stay in the U.S. Rubio has backtracked on the comprehensive reform bill he helped draft in 2013, but says he would still favor legal status for undocumented immigrants — once border security is addressed.
Alfonso Aguilar, director of the Latino Partnership at the pro-reform American Principles Project, said he thinks Latino voters are open to candidates who say border security must come first. Aguilar said he would even give some points to Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, an ardent opponent of so-called “amnesty,” based on his praise of legal immigration.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is a different case. Walker may have already hurt his standing with Latino voters by zigzagging his position on immigration — first supporting a path to citizenship, then saying he opposed one, and later implying that even legal immigration rates are too high, according to Aguilar.
“I think he’s already done with Latino voters because of that statement questioning immigration, whether it depresses wages,” Aguilar said. “I mean, that’s it, he’s gone off the deep end… Of the top-tier candidates, Walker is the one that has really, really, really stepped on it.”
On Tuesday, Walker argued to Fox News that he wasn’t actually flip-flopping, because his past statements in support of citizenship for undocumented immigrants were a) not votes and b) not made while he was a national politician working on the issue. But that doesn’t mean the “flip-flopper” criticism won’t stick.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie opened himself up for a similar line of attack this week when he said on Fox News that he had changed his mind and now thought a path to citizenship would be “an extreme way to go.”
As noted in the piece, one GOP strategist seems hopeful Republicans will lay out an immigration plan in the months to come.
But, candidates are already vying for audiences with Steve King in an attempt to win over primary voters. And, with a slew of approaching primary debates — where Romney laid out his now-infamous “self-deportation” policy — any humane plan seems unlikely.