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Republican Blues In California And With Latinos Won’t Be Solved By Changes In Tone Or Empty Invocations Of Reagan

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Ahead of a busy political week, here are a few of the key developments and takeaways surrounding the politics of immigration, an issue that continues to play a dominant role in the Republican presidential campaign.

Sorry Reince, Policy Matters:  On Sunday, Jake Tapper of CNN asked RNC Chairman Reince Priebusif the GOP should be worried about the political damage of Republican candidates insulting Latinos on the campaign trail.  Priebus rejected the notion, while making the point that “the way you communicate” and “tone” are “very important.”  He added, “sometimes, it’s not what you say, but it’s how you say it.”  Translation?  It’s not the explicit endorsement of mass deportation and other nativist policies that’s at issue, so long as candidates just start saying it in a nicer way.  As MSNBC’s Steve Benen reminds us, “Let’s not forget that Republican officials haven’t alwaysreached this conclusion.  The now-infamous “Growth and Opportunity Project” released in early 2013 – the so-called ‘autopsy’ – actually advised Republican policymakers to take substance seriously.  Indeed, the RNC report actually concluded that when it came to issues like immigration, the party had little choice: it had to change its policy agenda.”  Sorry, Reince.  It’s both what you say and how you say it.  Instead of making excuses for Trump and the Republican embrace of ugly nativism, you should use your voice to speak up against this dangerous drift towards nativism in the GOP and recognize that your Party seems doomed to repeat the mistakes of recent political history.

Ahead of Republican Debate at Reagan Library, a Study in Contrasts Between the Gipper and the Current GOP Field: As the 2016 Republican contenders lurch right on immigration, Wednesday night’s GOP debate at the Reagan Library offers a sharp contrast on the issue.  Not only did Ronald Reagan sign into law immigration legislation that eventually provided a pathway to citizenship for approximately three million undocumented immigrants, but his optimistic vision of America as a welcoming place for immigrants is in short supply among the 2016 GOP contenders.  Witness the new adfrom the National Immigration Forum Action Fund, juxtaposing Reagan’s famous valedictory address about a “shining city…open to anyone with the will and heart to get here,” with the ugly and divisive talk from the 2016 field (watch the ad here).

California: A Cautionary Tale for the Republican Party: Wednesday night’s debate in California offers a reminder – a cautionary tale – for Republicans.  In 1994, California’s Governor Pete Wilson (R) pushed through theinfamous anti-immigrant Proposition 187 and ignited a political backlash from the state’s changing electorate.  Latino and Asian immigrants became citizens in record numbers and transformed the state politically.  As a result, the California Republican Party – once the launching pad of Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan – is no longer competitive statewide.  After the 1994 elections, California’s congressional delegation consisted of 27 House Democrats and 25 House Republicans, along with two Democratic Senators.  After the 2014 elections, the state’s congressional delegation consisted of 39 House Democrats and only 14 House Republicans, along with two Democratic Senators.  The state legislature hasn’t been much kinder to California Republicans, with Democrats holding a combined 60 seats in the Assembly and Senate and Republicans holding a combined 58 seats in 1994.  Now, Democrats hold a combined 78 seats while Republicans hold just 42 seats combined in the two chambers.  As political pundit Charlie Cook has noted, before Prop 187, in 1994 “the GOP carried California in nine of 12 post-World War II presidential elections, including six in a row from 1968 through 1988…Since Prop 187, Republican presidential candidates have lost California in all five elections.”

Latinos are Angry, Engaged, and Mobilizing Against Anti-Immigrant and Anti-Latino Politics:  The immigration and Latino-related takeaways from the MSNBC/Telemundo/Marist Pollmakes it clear that Donald Trump’s outsized role in the GOP race and outspoken nativism is tarnishing the entire GOP brand.  As a write-up of the polling on MSNBC.com notes, “Almost two-thirds of Latinos surveyed – 65% – say Trump is hurting the image of the Republican Party, while just 13% say he is helping the party.  And 70% of Latinos say they see Trump as insulting and offensive, compared to 26% who say he tells it like it is.”  In what should worry Republican strategists, there are signs that the anti-Latino rhetoric and anti-immigrant policies on display are spurring Latinos to pay attention to the 2016 race and to potentially flex their political muscle.  A new video and advertising campaign in English and Spanish from the Latino Victory Project highlights the Republican field’s anti-immigrant statements and is designed as part of a larger and sustained mobilizing effort to reach out to Latino voters (read more in this Washington Post story describing the effort).  And as an Associated Press story makes clear, “Spanish-language radio is fixated on the 2016 presidential campaign, sparked by Republican Donald Trump’s caustic remarks about immigrants, mainly Mexicans, and a GOP field of contenders trying to out-duel each other on the contentious topic of overhauling immigration law.”  Keep in mind the analysis from Latino Decisions that the Republican nominee will need to win between 42-47% of Latinos to win the 2016 presidential popular vote.