Wary Iowans force St. John to tack right on immigration; Update: Tear down this wall, says Richardson

Kneel before Zod.

“Immigration is probably a more powerful issue here than almost anyplace that I’ve been,” Mr. McCain said after a stop in Cedar Falls.

As he left Iowa, Mr. McCain said he was reconsidering his views on how the immigration law might be changed. He said he was open to legislation that would require people who came to the United States illegally to return home before applying for citizenship, a measure proposed by Representative Mike Pence, Republican of Indiana. Mr. McCain has previously favored legislation that would allow most illegal immigrants to become citizens without leaving the country…

“Pence has this touchback proposal,” Mr. McCain said at a news conference. “I said hey, let’s consider that if that’s a way we can get some stuff.”

Nine months after Pence proposed the touchback plan, I still don’t see the point. If it’s a rubber stamp where illegals cross back into Mexico, queue up, and then get their work visa in short order, then there’s no point to it. Just give them the visas here. If it’s not a rubber stamp, if they’re expected to go home, wait for months, and then be readmitted only if they meet certain qualifications, then they’re obviously not going to go home. It sounds “reasonable” and “middle ground,” though, which is why McCain’s warming to it.

This is fun, too:

Mr. McCain’s aides said his identification with Mr. Kennedy accounted for much of his political problem on the issue with conservatives. One of his rivals for the nomination, former Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts, has taken to attacking what he calls the McCain-Kennedy bill…

In a speech to conservatives in Washington two weeks ago, Mr. Romney said: “The current system is a virtual concrete wall against those who have skill and education, but it’s a wide open walk across the border for those that have neither. And McCain-Kennedy isn’t the answer.”

Mr. Romney did not always take that position. He was quoted in The Boston Globe in November 2005 describing Mr. McCain’s immigration initiatives as “reasonable proposals,” though he stopped short of endorsing them, the newspaper said.

To sum up, then: the frontrunner is unapologetically soft on immigration, the guy in second is apologetically soft, and the guy in third (or fourth or fifth) claims not to be soft but might actually be. No wonder, no wonder. And yet, in spite of it all, everybody still loves Rudy, including the social cons. For the time being.

Like I said yesterday, a key part of his appeal is his stubbornness. I think he’s gambling that he can leverage that image and win the nomination as an uncompromising centrist, which would leave him ideally positioned for the general as someone who stared down those spooky wingnuts who frighten the children so. Hence our exit question: Is Rudy going to end up kneeling before Zod, too?

Update: No one in the race on either side is as bad on immigration as Busy Hands.

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, a Democratic aspirant for president in 2008, said Monday that the wall being erected on the U.S.-Mexico border needs to go.

“The wall should be torn down,” Richardson told reporters after the Texas House and Senate approved resolutions in his honor.

“It’s bad policy. It was done to get election votes,” Richardson said, referring to congressional action last year authorizing construction of a wall along parts of the border. “And the next president should not build it. I wouldn’t build it.”