Politics

The GOP’s Post-Cantor Immigration Headache

Immigration reform supporters crash the primary-night party of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., after he delivered a concession speech in Richmond, Va. on Tuesday, June 10, 2014. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
Immigration reform supporters crash the primary-night party of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., after he delivered a concession speech in Richmond, Va. on Tuesday, June 10, 2014. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

(Politico) – Suddenly, the 2016 Republican field has a new reason to worry about immigration reform: saying anything at all can be hazardous to your presidential chances.

The advice to the Republican Party seemed so clear after Mitt Romney’s loss in 2012: Just do it. Get some kind of immigration reform deal — the least bad deal you can find — and then move on. Otherwise, you can forget about winning any Hispanic voters.

But Eric Cantor’s loss Tuesday night proved how difficult a messaging challenge the issue will be for any 2016 candidate who dares to touch the rail. Advocate — even a little bit — for a deal, and you risk the ire of the base and being tagged as a supporter of “amnesty.” Go too far the other way, and you’ll surely face trouble in November against the Democrats.

The political earthquake immediately affects potential 2016 candidates out front on immigration reform such as Sen. Marco Rubio — who joined the Senate bipartisan push for immigration reform and then went quiet on it — and Jeb Bush, who raised eyebrows when he said in April that some illegal immigration is an “act of love” for immigrants’ families. But it could also become a headache for other hopefuls, like Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, who’s building his potential campaign around his ability to expand the appeal of the party.

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