To Recapture the White House, Republicans Need to Campaign on Immigration Enforcement

Published on June 17th, 2011

by Joe Guzzardi
June 8, 2011

The only certainty about the 2012 Republican presidential field is that it grows larger and less impressive every day. This must frustrate GOP leadership because President Barack Obama is nothing if not vulnerable.

Obama’s post-Osama bin Laden poll bump has vanished. According to a Washington Post ABC News poll, Americans by a 2-1 margin think the nation is on the wrong track. Although Obama has a ton of problems like his unpopular Afghanistan war, the high cost of food and gasoline, depressed housing and a nervous stock market, his biggest negative is that under his administration millions of people have lost their jobs and can’t find a new one.

If history is our guide, then Obama will be a single term president. No president has been reelected when the unemployment rate exceeds 7.2 percent. Currently, it stands at 9.1 percent and is poised to rise.

Among the lackluster Republican hopefuls, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney leads the pack, based mostly on his private sector business success. Romney’s visibility isn’t as high as Sarah Palin’s but among probable voters his credibility is greater.

Looking at the list, I wonder who advises the candidates and why they listen. Many recognize Newt Gingrich’s name but, according to the poll, the least appealing candidate trait is “being an elected official in Washington for a long time.”

Most interesting will be how candidates handle immigration. Typically loath to discuss the issue despite tangible evidence that Americans want legal immigration reduced and illegal immigration ended, the nominee will ultimately be forced to take a position.

Candidates from both parties correctly perceive immigration as contentious and avoid it because they fear, incorrectly, that it will cost them the Hispanic vote and ultimately the election. Despite thousands of mainstream media columns and stories insisting that Hispanics are the key to electoral success, the real swing voters are moderates who voted for Obama in 2008 and are now on the fence.

Immigration could give Republicans a chance to present American voters with a true choice: An enforcement candidate versus the incumbent Obama who has lobbied endlessly for “comprehensive immigration reform,” the DREAM Act and more nonimmigrant worker visas despite a relentlessly high unemployment rate that has averaged above 10 percent during his administration.

Who among the candidates will step forward to identify the link between 1 million legal immigrants a year and a dwindling job market for American citizens? The topic should be framed as pro-American rather than anti-American.

Whoever emerges as the Republican candidate will stump with his Congressional peers, now busy in the House working full bore on mandatory E-verify, the SAVE Act and ending birth right citizenship. The Senate has believers, too, even among the Democrats.

The official list of announced Republican candidates is ten including one former Senator (Rick Santorum), five former governors (Sarah Palin, Gary Johnson, Tim Pawlenty, Jon Huntsman, and Mitch Romney), a former House Speaker (Newt Gingrich), two current House representatives (Ron Paul and Michele Bachman) and businessman Herman Cain. With the exception of Minnesota’s Bachman and Pawlenty, all have poor records regarding immigration enforcement.

The Republican’s best chance to regain the White House may be Texas Governor Rick Perry, currently “reconsidering” a bid. Earlier this week during Texas legislature special session, Perry took bold measures to eliminate the state’s sanctuary cities and to implement the Secure Communities program that allows police officers to check an arrested person’s immigration status.

Whether Perry had the White House in mind when he acted is unclear. But Perry’s status as a possible presidential candidate got a big boost within Republican ranks when he removed blocks to local law enforcement processing immigration violations.


Joe Guzzardi has written editorial columns—mostly about immigration and related social issues – since 1986. He is a Senior Writing Fellow for Californians for Population Stabilization (CAPS) and his columns are frequently syndicated in various U.S. newspapers and websites. Contact him at [email protected]

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