Republican National Committee convened an “autopsy” of the results to determine how to improve the Party’s chances in 2016. One of the clearest findings was that the GOP’s relationship with the Hispanic portion of the electorate was poor and getting worse, due in large part to a perceived anti-Hispanic bias articulated thorough draconian immigration enforcement proposals.
The answer seemed obvious: moderate the tone, recognize the bad feelings created by anti-illegal immigrant rhetoric, and produce humane policies that can be sold to the GOP base without alienating the nation’s fastest-growing segment of voters.
That, of course, didn’t account for the rise of Donald Trump, the real estate mogul and former reality television star whose virulent attacks on illegal immigrants as rapists and criminals have sent him rocketing to the top of the polls in the GOP presidential primary.
Republican candidates had no way of avoiding the issue of illegal immigration because of its importance to many in the Party’s base, said GOP strategist Ford O’Connell. But latching on to highly controversial positions that put them at odds with many in the Hispanic community was probably not their preferred method.
“This is certainly not the way they wanted to have this discussion and they certainly didn’t want Donald Trump driving the bus on this issue, but all that’s out the window,” O’Connell said. He balked at the idea that there is some sort of civil war going on within the Party. Largely because there are not two clear sides.
“Not sure there are two camps,” O’Connell said. “Certainly there’s a Trump camp. But among the others there may be multiple camps.”
For instance, while Jeb Bush appears to occupy the point on the Republican spectrum furthest from Trump, O’Connell said, “I have a feeling that Rubio will be looking for something that’s a little more in the political middle ground between Bush and Trump.”
“Trump,” said O’Connell, “has forced their hand.”