Quotes of the day

“Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann on Wednesday furthered the attacks on former House Speaker Newt Gingrich over his immigration policies, saying that he moves the most toward the left among the GOP presidential candidates.

“‘He probably has the most liberal position on illegal immigration of any of the candidates in the race,’ Bachmann said in an interview with ‘PBS NewsHour.'”

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“The Iowa caucus electorate is representative of the most conservative branch of the GOP. A near-majority of the participants consider themselves ‘very conservative.’ More to the point, in 2008, entrance pollsters asked participants which of the following four issues were most important to them: terrorism, the economy, Iraq, illegal immigration. Amid two wars and a recession, illegal immigration came in with a plurality of 33 percent (the economy was second with 26 percent, terrorism third with 21 percent, and Iraq fourth with 17 percent). While John McCain did fairly well with the other three cohorts of voters, he received just 4 percent support among the ‘illegal immigration’ voters. These voters represented the strongest base of support for Mike Huckabee, who won the caucuses.

“With the subsequent economic plunge, it is possible that illegal immigration has faded as an important concern, although it is certainly wrapped up in the issue of joblessness. But I doubt if the attitude has faded completely. This is a potential problem for Gingrich, and it provides an opening for Romney who, incidentally, ran best among “illegal immigration” voters in 2008, and overall finished right behind Huckabee.”

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“Representative Steve King of Iowa, a leading voice against illegal immigration, said he was puzzled that Mr. Gingrich had suddenly injected such a red-hot issue into his campaign. He said it was difficult to overstate how potent of a problem it could be for Mr. Gingrich, saying it set off ‘a viral discussion among activists.’

“‘When you have a campaign that’s ascending and you make a statement like that, it’s like you’re backing off on the throttle and diminishing yourself,’ Mr. King said in an interview. ‘It’s the same philosophy as the Dream Act. How many politicians have seen their campaigns end because of that?’…

“Dr. Greg Ganske, a former congressman and a co-chairman of the Gingrich campaign in Iowa, said he did not think the issue would be damaging.

“‘The fact he spoke honestly about this and wasn’t willing to pander or just give a stock answer,’ he said, ‘I think a lot of people in Iowa will see that as a positive.'”

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“The conventional wisdom is that this could sink Gingrich, just as defending tuition breaks for children of illegal immigrants was a heavy albatross for Rick Perry. But what if Gingrich was having a Sister Souljah moment, staking out unpopular turf as a way of demonstrating that he’ll stand up for a principle?…

“[Gingrich spokesman R.C.] Hammond denied the proposal is a candidacy killer, saying it has majority support in polls. In a May survey of likely GOP primary voters for the Latino Partnership, 56 percent agreed with this proposition: ‘Provide resources for border security and create a system in which illegal immigrants already in the country could come forward and register, pay a fine including back taxes owed, and be allowed to remain temporarily in this country and work.’ That’s not exactly what Gingrich pitched—he said nothing about fines or temporary status—but it’s close.

“The reality of the situation is that mass deportations are not practically or politically feasible, even if it’s inconvenient to admit that. ‘If Mitt Romney is elected president, he’s not going to frog-march 10 million people to the Mexican border,’ says Hammond.”

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“To do what the former Speaker proposed would require no change in U.S. law. All you’d need is the sensible application of prosecutorial discretion.

“A successful immigration enforcement policy, easily implemented under current law, would secure the borders; use the capability we have to track aliens who enter on visas to ensure that they don’t overstay; and target our finite law enforcement resources at (a) illegal immigrants who violate federal or state criminal laws (i.e., other than the laws against illegal entry), and (b) employers who knowingly hire illegal aliens and therefore provide the incentive that induces them to come. (An even better policy would deny illegal immigrants various social welfare benefits, but some of that would involve changes in the law so I put it to the side for present purposes.)

“Such a policy would materially reduce the number of illegal immigrants in the U.S. — if they can’t work, many will leave and many won’t come in the first place. Such a policy would also call on government lawyers to exercise discretion (as they do in all aspects of law-enforcement) to decide which cases are worth prosecuting. Obviously, if an alien has been here illegally for a number of years but has been essentially law-abiding (again, ignoring the fact that it is illegal for him to reside and work in the U.S.), and if his deportation would have the effect of ripping apart an intact, law-abding family, you don’t bring that case. Such a case is not worth the Justice Department’s time when there are plenty of more serious criminals, including more serious immigration offenders, to pursue…

“That’s not amnesty. It’s common sense.”

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“Gingrich is different. While I wouldn’t describe him as a favorite of the GOP establishment, he maintains a favorable sentiment among portions of it to an extent that isn’t true of the previous insurgencies… Gingrich was a longtime scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and has been a regular on the Republican rubber-chicken circuit. And his message, while insurgent and reformist, has always paid lip service to social issues: The ‘Contract With America’ famously avoided hot-button social issues in favor of ‘good government reforms.’…

“At the same time, many rank-and-file GOP’ers fondly recall his role in bringing about the first Republican House majority in 40 years. His message is still an outsider, reformist one that should have resonance with Tea Partiers. And while he’s largely avoided social issues, he has been consistent on them (when pressed) to an extent that Romney has not. Combine these two, and you have an appeal that is potentially broad enough to gain traction in both Iowa and New Hampshire.

“This isn’t to suggest that Gingrich will be the one to knock Romney out once and for all: Gingrich has a lot of baggage, and when the 30-second spots begin running against him, he may see his lead collapse. The Fannie/Freddie stories in particular will be tough for him to get past. But the fact that Gingrich at least has some ties to the Republican establishment and can compete there makes him a danger to Romney in a way that Trump/Bachmann/Perry/Cain were not.”

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“Newt Gingrich is, without doubt, one of the most important Republican members of Congress in the postwar era, right up there with GOP giants like Bob Taft. His vision of what the congressional GOP could be, a fearless and conservative agent for change, continues to inspire congressional Republicans to this day. Indeed, it is very doubtful that Paul Ryan would have won such strong support for his budget if Gingrich had not shown the way.

“Yet his strengths outside the institution of Congress seem to be limited. The Revolution of 1994 was not a one-off event; instead, the GOP has held the House for seven of the last nine terms. But Gingrich could not sustain himself as the leader of this triumphant party. His professorial manner, his tendency to put his foot in his mouth, and his miscalculation during the 1995-96 shutdown destroyed his public image, and he resigned in 1998…

“I doubt that Gingrich could pull in those independent voters who swing elections. He has a lot of strengths, no doubt, but he has just as many weaknesses. And it seems to me that a national campaign against Obama would draw out the weaknesses more than the strengths.”

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Via Greg Hengler.

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