People Who Want Immigration Reform Say: Forget Eric Cantor, Just Look at Lindsey Graham

Two primaries allow you to draw whatever lessons best suit your agenda.

Senate Judiciary Committee member Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) during a markup session for the immigration reform legislation in the Hart Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill May 20, 2013 in Washington, DC. 
National Journal
Elahe Izadi
June 11, 2014, 10:22 a.m.

House Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Eric Can­tor’s shock­ing primary de­feat to a col­lege pro­fess­or who cas­ted Can­tor as a “pro-am­nesty” con­gress­man has left im­mig­ra­tion-re­form ad­voc­ates on the de­fense.

And so when you bring up Can­tor’s de­feat, they re­spond with: Yes, but what of Lind­sey Gra­ham?

The Re­pub­lic­an sen­at­or, an au­thor of the up­per cham­ber’s com­pre­hens­ive im­mig­ra­tion bill, is a pro­ponent of a path­way to cit­izen­ship. And he coas­ted through his South Car­o­lina primary Tues­day night, beat­ing back six tea-party chal­lengers.

“To some­how as­sume this was a ver­dict on im­mig­ra­tion re­form, I think some­how you’d have to jus­ti­fy Sen­at­or Gra­ham’s suc­cess,” said Re­pub­lic­an Sen. John Mc­Cain. “It’s a lot more com­plic­ated than just the is­sue of im­mig­ra­tion.”

Or just ask a Demo­crat. Top Demo­crat­ic lead­ers, such as Sen­ate Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Harry Re­id, who said Re­pub­lic­ans “should fol­low the lead of Lind­sey Gra­ham.”

“He nev­er backed down, backed up. He kept go­ing for­ward on this is­sue. And South Car­o­lina is not known as a very pro­gress­ive state,” Re­id said, adding that Wash­ing­ton tends to “over­ana­lyze.”

In­deed, the out­comes of both races are ac­tu­ally due to a num­ber of factors, and to pin one’s loss or an­oth­er’s suc­cess solely on im­mig­ra­tion re­form would be an ex­er­cise in over­sim­pli­fic­a­tion.

“If you don’t want to do something, any ex­cuse will do,” said the Sen­ate’s No. 2 Demo­crat, Dick Durbin.

That doesn’t mean Can­tor’s loss won’t put the scare in the House Re­pub­lic­ans who are open to re­form but haven’t been push­ing for it this year. Re­pub­lic­an Rep. Mario Diaz-Bal­art, an ad­voc­ate for re­form, said “per­cep­tion be­comes real­ity.”

“This clearly doesn’t help our cause “¦ it throws a wrench in­to it,” he said, later adding, “This is a ma­jor dis­rup­tion. This is a huge tsunami in this le­gis­lat­ive pro­cess that fur­ther com­plic­ates everything.”

To the left of the is­sue are im­mig­ra­tion-re­form ad­voc­ates who are frus­trated with the White House delay­ing ex­ec­ut­ive ac­tion on de­port­a­tions. They are us­ing Can­tor’s de­feat to bol­ster their ar­gu­ment that there is no more time to delay.

“Eric Can­tor’s de­feat at the [hands of a tea-party ex­trem­ist proves] what many of us have been say­ing for quite some time: Im­mig­ra­tion re­form is dead in this Re­pub­lic­an Con­gress,” said Presente.org, an on­line Latino ad­vocacy group. “We urge Pres­id­ent Obama to face the facts, stand up to the xeno­phobic and hate­ful forces in Amer­ica, and take ac­tion to stop de­port­a­tions im­me­di­ately. Any­thing less is un­ac­cept­able to Lati­nos across the coun­try.”

Demo­crat­ic Rep. Lu­is Gu­ti­er­rez, Con­gress’s most vo­cal pro­ponent of strong ex­ec­ut­ive ac­tion on de­port­a­tions, said on the House floor Wed­nes­day that it’s still on House Re­pub­lic­ans to move on im­mig­ra­tion re­form — but that the most real­ist­ic win­dow for it to hap­pen is still between now and Ju­ly 4, primary or not. And ab­sent le­gis­la­tion, the White House will move, Gu­ti­er­rez said.

“Im­mig­ra­tion re­form is not dead. It might just be mov­ing to the White House for ac­tion if none comes from this House,” Gu­ti­er­rez said.

Either way you cut it, the stakes are high for the GOP, par­tic­u­larly come 2016: “If we don’t en­act im­mig­ra­tion re­form, it’d be very dif­fi­cult to win a na­tion­al elec­tion,” Mc­Cain said.

Po­ten­tial 2016 pres­id­en­tial con­tenders Sens. Marco Ru­bio and Rand Paul aren’t in a rush to draw big les­sons from Can­tor’s de­feat. Ru­bio — who said Can­tor’s op­pon­ent Dav­id Brat sounds “very im­press­ive. He ac­tu­ally has an agenda with clear ideas” — was an au­thor of the Sen­ate’s com­pre­hens­ive bill (he con­cedes that he and Brat dif­fer on how they “talk” about that is­sue).

“Im­mig­ra­tion has nev­er been an is­sue that is a polit­ic­ally pop­u­lar one,” Ru­bio said. “There’s le­git­im­ate con­cerns about rule of law. I think those have only be ex­acer­bated by this ad­min­is­tra­tion’s un­will­ing­ness to en­force the law. I don’t know about the oth­ers, I knew that go­ing in. I just le­git­im­ately feel this is an is­sue that’s hurt­ing Amer­ica and needs to be ad­dressed.”

Paul said he “didn’t fol­low the race closely enough to say it’s about one is­sue or not.” But he did say that there is a path to mak­ing im­mig­ra­tion re­form hap­pen.

“If you put your head in the sand and say you don’t want any­thing done, then you’re ac­know­ledging you don’t want any­thing done,” Paul said. “El­ev­en mil­lion people have come over here il­leg­ally over the past couple dec­ades. If you do noth­ing an­oth­er 11 mil­lion come, so do­ing noth­ing really is not a great an­swer.”

As to what les­sons to draw from the Can­tor loss and the Gra­ham vic­tory, one re­form ad­voc­ate (and Can­tor sup­port­er) say he’s not ready to make that de­term­in­a­tion: “I don’t know what mes­sage this sends, what mes­sage Lind­sey Gra­ham’s vic­tory sends. It’s in­ter­est­ing, we po­ten­tially have con­flict­ing mes­sages here,” Diaz-Bal­art said.

What We're Following See More »
TAKING A LONG VIEW TO SOUTHERN STATES
In Dropout Speech, Santorum Endorses Rubio
2 days ago
THE DETAILS

As expected after earlier reports on Wednesday, Rick Santorum ended his presidential bid. But less expected: he threw his support to Marco Rubio. After noting he spoke with Rubio the day before for an hour, he said, “Someone who has a real understanding of the threat of ISIS, real understanding of the threat of fundamentalist Islam, and has experience, one of the things I wanted was someone who has experience in this area, and that’s why we decided to support Marco Rubio.” It doesn’t figure to help Rubio much in New Hampshire, but the Santorum nod could pay dividends down the road in southern states.

Source:
‘PITTING PEOPLE AGAINST EACH OTHER’
Rubio, Trump Question Obama’s Mosque Visit
2 days ago
WHY WE CARE

President Obama’s decision to visit a mosque in Baltimore today was never going to be completely uncontroversial. And Donald Trump and Marco Rubio proved it. “Maybe he feels comfortable there,” Trump told interviewer Greta van Susteren on Fox News. “There are a lot of places he can go, and he chose a mosque.” And in New Hampshire, Rubio said of Obama, “Always pitting people against each other. Always. Look at today – he gave a speech at a mosque. Oh, you know, basically implying that America is discriminating against Muslims.”

Source:
THE TIME IS NOW, TED
Cruz Must Max Out on Evangelical Support through Early March
2 days ago
WHY WE CARE

For Ted Cruz, a strong showing in New Hampshire would be nice, but not necessary. That’s because evangelical voters only make up 21% of the Granite State’s population. “But from the February 20 South Carolina primary through March 15, there are nine states (South Carolina, Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Kentucky, Mississippi, and North Carolina) with an estimated white-Evangelical percentage of the GOP electorate over 60 percent, and another four (Texas, Kansas, Louisiana, and Missouri) that come in over 50 percent.” But after that, he better be in the catbird’s seat, because only four smaller states remain with evangelical voter majorities.

Source:
CHRISTIE, BUSH TRYING TO TAKE HIM DOWN
Rubio Now Winning the ‘Endorsement Primary’
2 days ago
WHY WE CARE

Since his strong third-place finish in Iowa, Marco Rubio has won endorsement by two sitting senators and two congressmen, putting him in the lead for the first time of FiveThirtyEight‘s Endorsement Tracker. “Some politicians had put early support behind Jeb Bush — he had led [their] list since August — but since January the only new endorsement he has received was from former presidential candidate Sen. Lindsey Graham.” Meanwhile, the New York Times reports that fueled by resentment, “members of the Bush and Christie campaigns have communicated about their mutual desire to halt … Rubio’s rise in the polls.”

Source:
ARE YOU THE GATEKEEPER?
Sanders: Obama Is a Progressive
2 days ago
THE LATEST

“Do I think President Obama is a progressive? Yeah, I do,” said Bernie Sanders, in response to a direct question in tonight’s debate. “I think they’ve done a great job.” But Hillary Clinton wasn’t content to sit out the latest chapter in the great debate over the definition of progressivism. “In your definition, with you being the gatekeeper of progressivism, I don’t think anyone else fits that definition,” she told Sanders.

×