Immigration reform and the election of 2014

John is spot on when he writes: ” Pundits–even, shamefully, some Republican pundits–are trying to hustle Republican Congressmen into voting for the Gang of Eight bill, or something like it, by claiming that it is somehow a political necessity.” Take Jennifer Rubin. She claims that “if House Republicans are concerned about voters back home, they should get cracking on immigration.”

Actually, House Republicans are about to do just that. The problem for folks like Rubin is that House Republicans don’t seem inclined to get cracking on Gang of Eight-style immigration reform.

Rubin claims this is because House Republicans have been duped by “some talk show hosts and bloggers.” If they were “keenly in touch with actual voters” they would see things her way.

Are House Republicans really less in touch with their constituents than Jennifer Rubin is? A PPP poll, touted by Politico, finds that “voters in seven GOP-held congressional districts would be less likely to vote for their current representative if he doesn’t support immigration reform.”

Seven isn’t many, and at least some of the seven congressmen are already backing amnesty-style reform.

But there are at least two problems with the PPP finding. First, as Mickey Kaus shows, the wording of the survey questions is badly slanted. For example, the lead-off question is:

There is bipartisan immigration reform legislation being debated in Washington. The bill would secure our borders, block employers from hiring undocumented immigrants, and make sure that undocumented immigrants already in the U.S. with no criminal record register for legal status. If a long list of requirements is met over more than a decade, it provides eligibility for a path to citizenship. Would you support or oppose this proposal?

Like Kaus, I find it “amazing. . .that 28% of the voters were ornery enough to oppose this fabulous collection of prospective achievements.”

Second, one the seven “endangered” Republicans — the only one whose district we’re familiar with — happens to be John’s congressman, Rep. John Kline. (The others are Jeff Denham, David Valadao and Gary Miller, of California, Mike Coffman of Colorado, Joe Heck of Nevada and Mike Grimm of New York).

But John tells me that “the idea that there is some kind of mania for amnesty or greatly increased low-skill immigration in my district is absurd.”

I understand that during the last big fight over immigration reform, Rep. Kline’s office was flooded with messages from constituents about the Kennedy-McCain proposal. Nearly all of them opposed the legislation. It died, and Kline was reelected with 57 percent of the vote in the next election — 2008, a bad year for Republicans.

Since then, it’s my understanding that Kline has been redistricted into a somewhat more liberal district, which he nonetheless carried by 8 points in 2012. PPP and Jennifer Rubin notwithstanding, it seems unlikely that Kline needs to embrace amnesty to be reelected in 2014.

There probably are a few Republican congressmen whose constituents favor amnesty for illegal aliens to the point that opposing it might have electoral consequences. Jeff Denham of California, for example, reportedly pleaded for such legislation with colleagues at yesterday’s closed-door House GOP immigration strategy meeting.

Such representatives presumably will try to dodge the immigration bullet by publicly fighting for amnesty, as Denham is doing. It may not work, however, because if such legislation fails to pass, pro-amnesty constituents will recognize that the key to obtaining amnesty is electing a Democratic House.

But PPP did not attempt to figure out how many Republican House members would put their renomination in jeopardy if they supported amnesty-style immigration reform. It seems likely that some would.

In any case, I think we can leave it to House members to perform the electoral calculus. They don’t need political advice from Jennifer Rubin; nor, judging by the analysis of John Kline’s district, is it clear that they need it from PPP or Politico.

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