John McCain, the Republican weather vane on immigration

“Look at John McCain,” said GOP strategist Alex Castellanos. “Yes, he’s fought for immigration reform a long time. And yes, he is flying that flag again now. But we forget that in between, when McCain himself was challenged in a tough GOP primary for re-election, he ran TV spots saying, ‘build the dang[ed] fence.’” (Technically, it was “complete the danged fence” but you get the idea.) …

McCain’s tone in that ad (and his 2010 campaign generally) was a remarkable shift from the McCain of 2003, who told the Tucson Citizen: “Amnesty has to be an important part (of immigration reform) because there are people who have lived in this country for 20, 30 or 40 years, who have raised children here and pay taxes here and are not citizens.”

For the GOP, times have changed since the 2010 wave election, in which Republicans were boosted by conservative activists and tea party groups. Not only did Romney lose the presidential race in 2012, but he carried an even smaller share of the Hispanic vote than McCain did in 2008. That prompted many Republicans — including McCain — to declare it time to once again embrace comprehensive reform.