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The first thing I would suggest to the GOP is to anticipate the Democrats' playing the immigration card by re-introducing reform legislation and start planning on how to flip the issue in your favor. Polls show the American public is greatly concerned about border security, but that they want Congress to look at the matter pragmatically and pass legislation that punishes unauthorized immigrants, but ultimately allows a path to normalizing their immigration status. This is the position of the vast majority of Americans.
You have a nominee for President who is so closely identified with this position that you will not be able to escape this issue. Rather than fighting in public with your nominee or forcing him to abandon his position and appear to be a "flip-flopper", you have a golden opportunity to help McCain lead your party to broker a deal over the next few months on this issue. Americans are fed up with extreme partisanship and are looking for a President who can solve problems and work with the other party.
John McCain's ability to reach across the aisle to address the major problems of the day are one of the reasons for his success. If McCain is seen as brokering a deal on immigration, he'll demonstrate in a dramatic way that he's capable of delivering results. He'll also very visibly demonstrate to Hispanic voters in the country that the GOP is not the Anti-Hispanic party.
The votes are there to pass immigration reform legislation. There are enough potential supporters in the Senate to pass the bill. It passed in 2006, after all. And there are enough Democrats in the House, plus plenty of Republicans not running for re-election, to make passage there possible as well. Let the Republicans get credit for finally dealing with this major issue of the day.
The all-time leading scorer in NFL history is an active player for the Atlanta Falcons who is also the oldest active player in the NFL. 47 year old Danish-born Morten Andersen is old enough to be a grandfather and more than twice as old as many of his teammates. But he's still a remarkable kicker (he made 90% of his field goal attempts this past season) and has now played more games - by far - than any player in NFL history. The fact that he's been kicking in the NFL for more than a quarter century and is still on top of the game certainly gives some inspiration to those of us in our 40s. As long as there are NFL players still older than us, we're not really that old, are we?
I've had this little idea floating around for the last few months, but dared not reveal it until McCain locked up the nomination. I think you'll understand why when you read further.
John McCain is still supporting comprehensive immigration reform and just recently told Tim Russert of NBC that he believes the bill bearing his name was correct two years ago and he would vote for it if he had the opportunity today. I believe him.
Let's just suppose Majority Leader Harry Reid and Speaker Nancy Pelosi decided to bring back the 2006 version of the comprehensive immigration reform bill - the good one - and schedule it for, let's say, a good several weeks of very public debate this spring or summer in each House. Do you think the GOP is going to allow their rank and file members to attack their nominee day in day out over the immigration issue? If they do, the results could be disastrous as McCain will be going around the country trying to unite a very fractured party that is already pretty suspicious of his conservative bona fides. Can you imagine one Republican after another having to come to the microphone to denounce the McCain-Kennedy bill (and that's what Reid and Pelosi need to call it every chance they get)? And then McCain being dogged by reporters asking about it multiple times each day?
The Democrats are fretting today about continuing their internal fighting all the way to the convention and McCain having a basically free pass to go out and rally support. But throwing the immigration "grenade" and stirring up the immigration storm in the GOP may make the Democrats bickering look pretty tame.
So how might the grown ups in the GOP prevent this nightmare scenario from playing out? I think what you might see is a sudden willingness to work a deal quickly and behind the scenes and largely on the Democrats' terms. Aside from protecting their nominee, some of the GOP leaders are probably starting to ask the question of why McCain was able to get the nomination if the anti-immigration issue was so potent. Maybe Republicans are safer on this issue than they thought and don't have to worry quite so much about taking a moderate immigration position.
While the Democrats might have been timid about this issue given how things went last summer when it looked like they could be seriously hurt, a few months is an eternity in politics. Bringing back immigration reform would have virtually no drawbacks now and could reap major rewards, both political (if McCain is seriously damaged or distracted) and substantive (if immigration reform actually passed).
Just wanted to throw that out there....
[UPDATE: It also occurs to me that McCain will be in a pickle if he tries to nuance or change his position and talk about "enforcement first" since he now has to convince Hispanic voters not to abandon the GOP as polls are suggesting they are doing in droves].
Apparently, my blog post chiding Lou Dobbs for calling the Anti-Defamation League a "joke" due to its criticism of Dobbs for cozying up to leaders of hate groups and for using extremist rhetoric in his broadcasts has gotten the attention of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, the AP of the nation's Jewish community.
In case you haven't heard, the anti-immigration card didn't deliver for Mitt Romney and he has just announced he has dropped out of the Republican race for President. While Mike Huckabee in theory could still win the nomination, the math makes it virtually impossible. So John McCain, who stuck to his guns in favoring a sensible immigration policy and who warned his opponents over the anti-immigrant tone the campaign was taking, will now be the Republican nominee for President. And given the pro-immigration positions of Clinton and Obama, the country is assured of at least four years of an immigrant-friendly President. It will be fun to watch how the rabid anti-immigrant wing of the GOP will treat McCain.