Byron York reports that Marco Rubio’s support for “comprehensive immigration reform” is seriously harming his standing with Iowa Republicans. Byron bases this conclusion on responses he received from leading Iowa Republicans to an email that asked a few general questions about the GOP field, without mentioning immigration.
The responses were “all about immigration, and nearly all negative.” GOP State Central Committee member Jamie Johnson said:
Over the last three months, Marco Rubio’s name and face and voice have been so attached to the comprehensive immigration bill that it has virtually killed any enthusiasm among Republicans in Iowa for a Rubio presidential candidacy. Most Republicans here now see Rubio as the amnesty candidate.
Sioux City conservative radio host Sam Clovis added:
Rubio has hurt himself immeasurably with his support of the current immigration bill. The rule of law still trumps all the feel-good aspects of the bill.
There is a lesson here for congressional Republicans considering how to vote on amnesty. That lesson is: do so at your peril.
Immigration reform isn’t the focus of most conservatives right now. They are worried more about the debt and focused more on various Obama administration scandals. Conservatives are aware that Marco Rubio joined John McCain, Chuck Schumer and others to support amnesty and, as Byron’s report suggests, they aren’t happy about this.
But I suspect that most conservatives are confident the Republican House will never agree to amnesty, much less a path to citizenship, for illegal immigrants. Thus, immigration is a back-burner issue for them; their outrage is directed elsewhere.
If Congress enacts amnesty legislation, however, I think we’ll see an explosion of shock and outrage. Naturally, the outrage will be directed primarily at the Republican members of Congress who voted for the legislation (though some will also be directed at the House leadership for not blocking the fiasco). Such members should not be surprised if they find themselves facing very uncomfortable primary fights.
One Iowa Republican activist told Byron that amnesty will be “a separator issue, for sure” in the Iowa caucuses. I believe that, come primary time in 2016, it will also be a separator issue for more than a few congressional Republicans who take the plunge with Marco Rubio.