Marco Rubio, up and coming GOPER, Florida Senator and supposed Vice Presidential option for presumptive Republican Presidential nominee Mitt Romney, has gotten a lot of press and political pundit buzz from his efforts to drum up support for a Republican version of the Dream Act. While some have argued this is nothing more than an election year ploy by the GOP for damage control on its dismal numbers among Latino voters, Rubio seems serious — and the prospects for it passing this year seem increasingly grim.
The latest twist comes from comments by House Speaker John Boehner –who is shaping up as a political figure that will help Democrats win over independent voters, Latinos and women voters. He in effect has said to Rubio “in your dreams” about any hopes of any kind of a version of the Dream Act this year.
House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) poured cold water Thursday on efforts by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) to advance immigration reform by suggesting that such a plan would not be able to pass the GOP-led House this year.
Asked by a reporter whether he thought the House could pass an immigration measure this year that focused on more than just border security, Boehner said: “There’s always hope.”
The speaker said he has spoken to Rubio about his plan. “I found it of interest, but the problem with this issue is that we’re operating in a very hostile political environment. To deal with a very difficult issue like this, I think it would be difficult at best.”
Rubio is pushing what his office describes as an “alternative” to the Democratic-backed Dream Act that would create a path to citizenship for the children of illegal immigrants. The senator’s bill would legalize certain young people who came to the United States while they were children by granting non-immigrant visas so they could remain in the U.S. for college or to serve in the military.
The Washington Post reported Thursday that Rubio is actively courting immigrant advocates who usually side with the White House on the issue, but have grown frustrated with President Obama’s policies. Some of the activists say they are open to Rubio’s effort, even if it falls short of the original Dream Act.
This context is important since the Latino vote could help determine the winner in the Presidential election. In a piece on how the GOP is almost intentionally hurting itself with groups it will need to win, Salon notes:
It’s almost as if the GOP can’t help itself.
Start with Hispanic voters, whose electoral heft keeps growing as they comprise an ever-larger portion of the electorate. Hispanics now favor President Obama over Romney by more than two to one, according to a recent Pew poll.
The movement of Hispanics into the Democratic camp has been going on for decades. What are Republicans doing to woo them back? Replicating California Republican Governor Pete Wilson’s disastrous support almost twenty years ago for Proposition 187 – which would have screened out undocumented immigrants from public schools, health care, and other social services, and required law-enforcement officials to report any “suspected” illegals. (Wilson, you may remember, lost that year’s election, and California’s Republican Party has never recovered.)
The Arizona law now before the Supreme Court – sponsored by Republicans in the state and copied by Republican legislators and governors in several others – would authorize police to stop anyone looking Hispanic and demand proof of citizenship. It’s nativism disguised as law enforcement.
Romney is trying to distance himself from that law, but it’s not working. That may be because he dubbed it a “model law” during February’s Republican primary debate in Arizona, and because its author (former state senator Russell Pearce, who was ousted in a special election last November largely by angry Hispanic voters) says he’s working closely with Romney advisers.
Hispanics are also reacting to Romney’s attack just a few months ago on GOP rival Texas Governor Rick Perry for supporting in-state tuition at the University of Texas for children of undocumented immigrants. And to Romney’s advocacy of what he calls “self-deportation” – making life so difficult for undocumented immigrants and their families that they choose to leave.
As if all this weren’t enough, the GOP has been pushing voter ID laws all over America, whose obvious aim is to intimidate Hispanic voters so they won’t come to the polls. But they may have the opposite effect – emboldening the vast majority of ethnic Hispanics, who are American citizens, to vote in even greater numbers and lend even more support to Obama and other Democrats.
Many analysts believe Rubio has been auditioning for the Romney Veep spot this week. But some polls have suggested putting Rubio on the ticket wouldn’t help the GOP and CNN contributor Ruben Navarrette Jr. flatly says the Florida Senator can’t help the GOP for a variety of reasons. There is also a strong argument for putting Rubio on the ticket.
Rubio’s apparent brick wall on the Dream Act (the GOP’s most conservative and Tea Party members) underscores the continuing divide in the GOP between the Bush family wing and the party’s more conservative base. Rubio — who Jeb Bush has made it clear he would love to see run for Vice President — is on the same wavelength as the Bushes on immigration. Boehner, once again, is coming across as a seemingly gutless leader who comes across as someone who follows the leadership of his members and talk show hosts rather than trying to persuade and shape the GOP legislative response. He often seems to be more of a party base servant and messenger than House Majority Leader who can direct legislation — or change minds.
It could be argued that if a Rubio Dream Act doesn’t materialize most voters won’t notice. But it will add one more strand to the seemingly heaping plate of political spaghetti strands that Latino voters now see piled high — strands that seldom tilt in Latino’s favor. And on election day they might just say “meatballs” to the GOP.
Copyright 2012 The Moderate Voice