“I think his message on border security, immigration and so on has really resonated with folks throughout southern Arizona,” said Lea Marquez Peterson, president of the Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and a GOP candidate in a House district that stretches to the Mexican border, where illegal crossings remain high. She said Trump’s “animals” remark was not out of bounds.
The apparent popularity of the president’s immigration views among top-tier Republican candidates reflects the extent to which Trump has refashioned the party in his image.
Long gone is the GOP’s post-2012 autopsy, titled the “Growth and Opportunity Project,” which, following the loss to President Barack Obama, called for the party to adopt a more liberal position on immigration and work harder to court Hispanics and other minorities. Those ideas were part of the arguments in 2016 from some of Trump’s rivals, such as Jeb Bush and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), but Trump’s triumph and continued popularity with GOP voters have made clear that strong opposition to illegal immigration is key to winning the party base.