Immigration reform: Can a supporter win GOP nomination in 2016?
Although Republicans in general have been under pressure to warm up to immigration reform, such an approach might not resonate in early-primary states, where GOP voters tend to be socially conservative and largely white.
Hanging over the Washington battle about immigration reform is the dicey question of how the issue might affect the White House hopes of those Republicans supporting the legislation. Namely, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and former Sunshine State governor Jeb Bush.Skip to next paragraph
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One broader political narrative in play is that the GOP must make a move to woo the nation’s growing Hispanic voter population – and that if lawmakers stand in the way of reform, they’re further alienating citizens who have already shown a deepening allegiance to the Democratic Party. Hispanics twice backed Barack Obama’s presidential campaign.
But in key early caucus and primary states, Iowa in particular, Republican primary voters are socially conservative, largely white, and prone to supporting firebrands who rail against abortion, for example, and to courting Evangelicals. They wrap themselves in the flag. Often effectively.
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So for Republicans, there’s an obvious tension in positioning around the immigration issue. Should GOP hopefuls aim to win 2016 primary contests with an anti-immigration reform stance that could potentially turn off valuable general-election swing voters? Think potential White House wannabes Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Ted Cruz of Texas, who have made clear their views against reform and for a stronger border.
Or is it perhaps more politically astute to think long, carve out some middle ground on the issue, and seek compromise with Democrats?
“Pro-reform candidates could have a hard time in the caucuses and primaries, but let’s remember there are other issues that drive activists, too,” says David Yepsen, a longtime Des Moines Register political reporter. “Electability in November and likability on the stump are two.”