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Sargent: On GOP and Immigration, It's Steve King’s Party Now. Next Year, It Belongs to Ted Cruz

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As noted below, the Texas Republican Party held its convention this past weekend. And, as Greg Sargent points out, it’s not just Texas, the Republican Party nationally is becoming Ted Cruz’s party and it’s getting even more viciously anti-immigrant:

There’s a lot of chatter today about Senator Ted Cruz’s triumphant appearance over the weekend at the Texas GOP convention. As Karen Tumulty puts it, Cruz “bestrode” the 8,000-strong gathering “like a colossus,” confirming that “the entire Texas GOP appears to have been made over in Cruz’s image.”

Exhibit A: Immigration reform. Reuters reports that the Texas GOP jettisoned its old, soft position on immigration — one designed to keep the GOP demographically “relevant” — and replaced it with a harder-line platform that “calls for securing the border with Mexico, offering no amnesty for anyone in the country illegally and ending in-state college tuition for illegal immigrants.”

Which should serve as a reminder of what might happen if Republicans don’t act on immigration reform before the August recess. If the GOP’s refusal to act confirms that this year it is Steve King’s party, next year it very well may be Ted Cruz’s party.

Cruz is setting the stage for a presidential campaign. The Texas GOP platform was crafted in Cruz’s image – and provides the foundation for his campaign. And, as Latino Decisions has found, this anti-immigrant strategy doesn’t bode well for the GOP in Texas:

According to Sylvia Manzano, Principal at Latino Decisions, “The Texas Republican Party used to be the model for Hispanic outreach, but they are increasingly adopting the harsh language and policy positions that burned bridges with Hispanic voters in Arizona, California, and Colorado. In doing so, they give enthusiastic Democratic organizers and campaigns new political opportunities to re-build a long-term coalition in the state.”

Now, that harsh language has been adopted in the Texas GOP platform. The Latino Decisions report cited several key factors about Hispanics in Texas:

  • The Hispanic population in Texas is just under 10 million, which is larger than the entire state population in forty-three states. Within the next six years, Hispanics will constitute a plurality of the Texas population (43% by 2020).
  • The majority of Texas Hispanics eligible to vote, 61%, did not cast a ballot in 2012.  That is a twenty-two point turnout difference from their white counterparts in the state. Texas would be as competitive as Florida in statewide elections if this untapped electorate voted.
  • 58% of Hispanic voters in Texas have friends or family members that are undocumented, making the current Republican tenor on immigration especially unappealing to this growing segment of the eligible electorate.

And, none of that deterred Ted Cruz’s state party.

We have heard some Republicans intimate that if immigration reform doesn’t pass this year, next year, there will be movement if their party takes control of the Senate. Greg debunks that idea – and explains the political implications for a Cruz-led GOP’s immigration strategy:

This is the guy who may have a great deal of influence over the immigration debate next year. For context, note that many possible GOP presidential contenders — such asPaul RyanRand PaulChris Christie, and Marco Rubio — have flirted with constructive positions on immigration, suggesting they think getting right on the issue is crucial for the party’s 2016 chances. Should Cruz demagogue it in a bid for far right GOP primary voters, it could make it harder for others to stake out moderate positions — making it harder for Congressional Republicans to act, too.

It’s always possible Republicans will succeed in passing reform next year, but Ted Cruz’s demagoguery could very well make it a good deal harder. It isn’t as if we haven’t seen this before: look what happened to the GOP’s Latino support when the party was pulled to the right on the issue last time around. Never mind 47 percent. Try 27 percent. And in 2016, with the Latino share of the vote set to rise in many key swing states, Ted Cruz’s party could actually fare worse.

Ted Cruz’s will lead the party right off the demographic cliff.