by Jules Witcover
South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, one of the bipartisan Gang of Eight seeking historic reform of American immigration policy, has warned his party colleagues they'd better get aboard or forget about electing one of their own to the Oval Office in 2016.
While predicting the eventual bill will get more than 70 votes in the
One prominent member of the gang, Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, a prospective 2016 presidential candidate, has been a leading figure in the reform negotiations, pushing for a path to American citizenship for Hispanics in the country in conjunction with stronger security along the Mexican border.
But a political hangover from the 2012 campaign, in which
Graham insisted on Sunday's "Meet the Press" on
That assessment is a reasonable one, but it seems to suggest that enactment of a more dependable gateway to citizenship for Hispanics already here and their family members will in itself throw open the floodgates to millions of such ethnic voters ready and eager to vote Republican.
More probable is that such immigration reform will only enlarge the pool of Latinos voting Democratic, based on past patterns and the general damage to the Republican brand by the eight years of the George W. Bush presidency and the hapless Romney --campaign of 2012.
The junior George Bush won the 2000 Republican presidential nomination with strong Latino support as governor of Texas, having advocated policies that held promise of much greater progress on the national level. Those promises went largely unrealized, and the increasingly unpopular war policies that eroded Bush's support among the general electorate in his second term also took their toll among Hispanics.
Then came the 2012 presidential campaign, in which the
Graham's warning of a Republican death spiral was an unusually harsh appraisal from a loyal party member. It could be dismissed as an overzealous shot across the bow of fellow Republicans to get behind the immigration reform, for which he has worked long and hard. At the same time, he predicted a political breakthrough in its passage, which smacks of putting all of the party's eggs in that one basket.
Graham said he thought former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush would have a good chance of winning if he were to run for president in 2016. Doing so likely would help with the Hispanic vote, inasmuch as his wife is a
In any event, it's notable that Graham has put the issue of immigration reform in uncommonly cataclysmic terms for his party, after it bet all in 2012 on getting rid of Obama and Obamacare as the ticket to returning to power -- and lost.
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Republicans: Avoiding a Death Spiral