John McCain

No Comprende, It's a Riddle

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The best story you'll read this week is Ryan Lizza's on-the-trail portrait of "Tancredoism": its rise, its aftershocks, its impact on the GOP. It's a story that's been told before, of Republicans "chasing a rabbit down a hole" for dubious short-term gains and likely long-term disaster, but Lizza gets great stuff from the candidates themselves.

When I asked Tancredo about Bush's argument that Republicans risked losing a generation of Hispanic voters if they adopted an immigration policy that many regard as nativist, he laughed and said, "It doesn't seem to be holding its own very well, considering what happened the other night at the debate. If you think for a moment that Romney, Giuliani, and Thompson"—Fred Thompson, the former Tennessee senator—"haven't polled the heck out of this thing, you're wrong. They have. And they are there now because the polls tell them this is where they should be."

See the problem? Tancredo's confusing (or maybe just switching) the subject: Appealing to white conservatives in Iowa and New Hampshire and South Carolina has nothing to do with winning the growing Hispanic vote in the decreasingly red southwest. A Republican who pledges to put proximity mines on the border can make some gains with the tens of thousands of Iowans he needs to win a caucus, then lose the combined 30 electoral votes of Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico and Colorado without setting foot in those states. Some tradeoff. John McCain comes off well in this discussion:

"It's the influx of illegals into places where they've never seen a Hispanic influence before," McCain told me. "You probably see more emotion in Iowa than you do in Arizona on this issue. I was in a town in Iowa, and twenty years ago there were no Hispanics in the town. Then a meatpacking facility was opened up. Now twenty per cent of their population is Hispanic. There were senior citizens there who were—'concerned' is not the word. They see this as an assault on their culture, what they view as an impact on what have been their traditions in Iowa, in the small towns in Iowa. So you get questions like 'Why do I have to punch 1 for English?' 'Why can't they speak English?' It's become larger than just the fact that we need to enforce our borders."

And related: E.J. Dionne explains why Republicans can still count on immigrant-bashing in mostly white suburban House seats.