The Washington Examiner’s Byron York reflects on John McCain’s presidential run in 2008 and how the issue of immigration reform affected his standing with the conservative base. (Surprise: It stank.)
But will Florida Sen. Marco Rubio suffer the same fate?
Surely Rubio has more in common with the base than McCain ever did, but immigration is a hot-button issue — could it bring down an entire potential campaign?
It just might, York notes:
Over the weekend I emailed a number of Iowa conservatives to ask them a few general questions about the GOP field. I didn’t mention immigration or any other issue; I just wanted their thoughts. What I got back, as far as Rubio was concerned, was all about immigration, and nearly all negative. [...]
Those are all opinions from the party’s more conservative wing, but of course conservatives remain quite influential in Iowa. Take a step back, though, look at the whole Iowa GOP, and some will argue that immigration hasn’t sunk Rubio’s chances at all. The problem is, it has made him a divisive figure.
“Rubio is somewhat polarizing in Iowa,” said Craig Robinson, who runs The Iowa Republican, an influential blog in state GOP circles. “Some conservatives think his push for immigration reform has ended any thought of him running for president in 2016. I am not ready to write him off. Sure, it’s not going to endear him to the Steve King loyalists in the state, but he is still someone that people generally like and respect.”
The bottom line is that by pushing so hard for comprehensive immigration reform, and by working so closely with intensely partisan Democrats like Sen. Charles Schumer (as McCain had with the late Sen. Ted Kennedy), Rubio has lost some of his appeal to GOP voters in the nation’s first-voting state.
Granted, a candidate doesn’t have to win over Iowa to with the presidency, but York notes that Rubio’s basic problem is inherently similar to McCain’s — the people don’t trust the government. Any Republican whose plan requires more trust in the government to stem the tide of illegal immigration is essentially forfeiting the vote of the GOP’s most conservative voting bloc.