Republican Senate Candidates Stake Out Difficult Immigration Stances

While most of the Republicans testing the 2016 presidential waters are in favor of a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants, the GOP’s Senate candidates are generally focusing on the enforcement side, calling for a crackdown — a striking difference that underscores just how difficult the issue is for the party.

With the exception of Mitt Romney’s 2012 campaign, Republican presidential candidates have generally been to the left of their party on immigration, with George W. Bush and Sen. John McCain leading the pack.

The same sort of scenario is playing out in the run-up to the Republican nomination race, with the exceptions of Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who opposes amnesty for illegals, and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, who says that lawmakers should secure the border first before discussing anything else.

But Senate candidates, responding to a much different electorate, tack to the right, and it’s difficult to find even incumbent Republican senators who are running on a platform of legalizing illegal immigrants.

Ford O’Connell, a GOP strategist, said those candidates are eyeing the presidential math.

“If you go solely for blue collar white voters, yes, you can win a presidential election, there is no doubt about it, but you have to thread a very narrow needle, and that window is going to keep closing,” the strategist said.

“Nobody is saying that immigration is going to get you votes,” he said. “What a lot of people are saying is that, ‘We have a problem and it is only getting exacerbated because it is easier to come her illegally then legally and, frankly, eventually you are going to run out of white voters. So this is more seen as a doorway to being able to being able to begin that conversation.”

Read more from Seth McLaughlin at The Washington Times

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Analysis & Political Strategy