How to get re-elected with 33 percent

Stuart Roy Contributor
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“Man plans and God laughs,” a former boss used to say all the time, quoting the Yiddish Proverb.  And Republican plans to send Democrat Majority Leader Harry Reid to retirement this year are now in jeopardy as national issues intervene in Nevada and may allow the 70-year-old senator to get re-elected with a pathetic 33 percent approval rating.

As Reid’s popularity has fallen in the state since becoming the Democrat leader Republicans have been anticipating sending two consecutive Democrat leaders to their involuntary departure from the dome.  But of all issues, immigration reform may prove to be a winner for Reid in his home state.  A few weeks ago he publicly promised immigration advocates in his home state that he would bring an immigration reform bill to the floor of the Senate before the Memorial Day recess.  The next week in Washington he reneged on that promise saying the Senate calendar was simply too full.

Now with pressure on the president to act, and with the Arizona immigration enforcement bill making national news, (for those who don’t know Arizona passed a law that makes illegal immigration a state crime, in addition to a federal crime, and requires police to check immigration status if they have “reasonable suspicion”.  This has opened up Republican supporters of the law to charges of backing racial profiling. ) Reid is back in action on immigration and may be able to blame lack of action on Republicans.  This will allow him to make amends with the large Hispanic population in Nevada and potentially steal his seat back from the jaws of defeat.

Republicans face the opposite circumstance in Florida where Republican Marco Rubio has been on a glide path to victory in the Senate race there obliterating sitting Gov. Charlie Crist in the polls to the point where, reportedly, Crist may drop out of the primary and run as an independent.  The heated immigration debate centering on the Arizona law threatens his electoral fortunes as it has created a minefield with the state’s large immigrant population.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.

Nationally, Republicans don’t have to let themselves get painted in the corner.  Portions of the Arizona law, while understandable in its intent, should make most anyone cringe.  (Although I’m a white guy from Mississippi, I was once mistaken for a Mexican and told that I had “really good English” when on a trip to Mexico City.)  Why allow the GOP to be painted with the racial profiling brush?  Our leaders need to follow Sen. Cornyn’s (R – Tex.) and former Gov. Jeb Bush’s (R- Fla.) example.

  • Empathize with the problem.  No one understands it better than Republicans.
  • Reject the egregious parts of the law.
  • Place the blame where it belongs, the Obama administration and Congressional Democrats.  The Democrats have had control of Congress for over three years and Obama said he was going to move a comprehensive immigration reform bill in his first year in office.  Both have failed to act on the problem.  And may not for quite a while.  This is not leadership.  It is failure.

Luckily for Republicans a growing list of leaders are speaking out on this bill and calling for reform of the nation’s immigration laws including Cornyn, Rubio, Bush, Karl Rove, Lincoln Diaz-Balart and many others.  They may help lead the party out of this predicament.

Meanwhile, if you asked me, “check your papers?” I’d say, “Kiss my ass.”  And it really doesn’t get any more American than that.

Stuart Roy was a long-time spokesman and strategist for leaders in both chambers of Congress and is now a partner at Prism Public Affairs, a DC-based public affairs firm.