March 29, 2012; Source: Politico

During the presidential primaries, the political process tends to compel candidates to play to the extremes in their parties and, as a consequence, take positions on issues—for example, on contraception and abortion—that one suspects might not be the true position of some of the candidates. For example, just think of bedraggled Mitt Romney, who was once known as a moderate Republican who seemed to have a positive stint as the governor of one of the bluest of the blue states, Massachusetts (and who, in 2008, was endorsed for president by his now bitter rival, Rick Santorum).

But occasionally, the political struggle makes politicians think a little better about the issues and seek positions that rectify the damage that party extremists might have done. Politico reports that major Republican Party leaders know that they face a problem with Latino voters who have been alienated by the anti-immigrant saber-rattling of the Republican presidential candidates during the debates, particularly as Romney, Santorum, Rick Perry, and Michelle Bachman competed for extremes in immigration policing while Newt Gingrich took a smidgen of a more moderate stance on citizenship for long-time undocumented immigrants. That jingoistic stance has aliened Latinos, virtually ensuring a Republican defeat in November unless Latino support for the Republican presidential candidate can inch up from the low teens.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) is working with senate colleagues Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) and Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) to come up with a Republican version of the DREAM Act (see some of NPQ’s previous coverage of the Act here and here). The Republican version of the Act would help undocumented children and discussions are also focusing on potentially changing immigration rules for highly skilled workers. Reportedly, the group has even met with Democrats in the Senate to sound out potential bipartisan interest for a compromise DREAM Act.

Republicans and Democrats might want to remember that the most recent—and only—effort for immigration reform in recent years was promoted by the late Sen. Ted Kennedy and former President George W. Bush. For whatever liberals might say about Bush on a number of issues, he was way out ahead of members of his own party and many Democrats on immigration reform.  Bush was hoisted on his petard for his efforts, a lesson that President Obama obviously studied in his scrupulous first-term avoidance of a comprehensive immigration reform package.

NPQ has plenty of readers from the immigration reform community. Do you think something might happen now that the Republicans, led in this case by someone who is the son of Cuban immigrants, might stumble into a positive, supportive, endorse-able bill?—Rick Cohen