Yesterday, Ben Carson’s campaign manager lamented the fact that Donald Trump didn’t attack Carson during Tuesday’s debate. Instead, Carson’s picking the fight with Trump, and over Trump’s strong suit in the primary campaign — immigration. Late yesterday, Carson told the Washington Examiner’s Al Weaver that Trump is “far from .. the Republican Party” on mass deportations. Instead, Carson wants a pragmatic policy, one that might include an option to become guest workers, or a longer path to US citizenship:
A day after the fourth GOP debate, Ben Carson took a hatchet to Donald Trump’s plan to deport millions of illegal immigrants living in the United States.
In an exclusive interview with the Washington Examiner Wednesday before a private fundraiser outside of Richmond, Va., Carson took aim at Trump’s deportation push, saying it will “hurt” the billionaire candidate more than the Republican Party.
“I think they hurt Donald Trump in the long run,” Carson said, referring to the deportation plans. “I think there are enough people who know that there are others in the race that are very reasonable. I don’t think he necessarily is the representation of the Republican Party — far from it.” …
“The people that are here, the 11.5 million people here, rounding them up and deporting them may sound good to some people,” Carson said. “But it’s not pragmatic.”
“It also affects the farming industry, the hospitality industry. So, you know, we have to be pragmatic as a nation. There’s no reason that they should have to live in the shadows,” Carson said.
This is the same basic argument offered by John Kasich in two debates, only put more rationally and calmly. Combined with the other frontal attacks on Trump in the Tuesday debate — especiallu from Jeb Bush, Carly Fiorina, and Kasich more than once — it may signal an end to the hands-off strategy that has allowed Trump to remain more or less unchallenged on policy. Ironically, this might complicate matters for Ted Cruz ahead of anyone else, including Trump. Cruz has offered a harder edge to his immigration messaging of late in an attempt to show a contrast between himself and Marco Rubio. As Gabriel Malor recalls, there isn’t all that much contrast in the first place:
Sen. Cruz opened himself up to the legitimate question—does he still support a path to legalization?—by going amnesty hacky on others.
— Gabriel Malor (@gabrielmalor) November 12, 2015
If Carson goes down in flames with this frontal attack on Trump, then Cruz’ position is strengthened. If not — and if others start attacking Trump for his “deportation force” promise and his sloganeering on immigration — that would tend to help Marco Rubio even as he tries to convince conservatives that he has truly abandoned the idea of comprehensive reform. This may be the first breaking point in the primaries; it’s difficult to imagine that the race will be unaffected by Carson’s move, and any significant change in direction will say volumes about the Republican primary electorate.
Carson, meanwhile, intends to keep on keepin’ on in his values-based campaign, from which this argument clearly springs. In this clip from his full-house appearance at Liberty University, Carson lambastes secular progressives and their demands for submission rather than negotiation. Given what is happening on campuses like Mizzou and Yale, it’s a timely reminder.