A Referendum on Amnesty?

Mickey Kaus Columnist
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Should Republicans make the 2014 midterms a Referendum on Amnesty? Short answer: Yes! Karl Rove would never be so impolite as to mention immigration amnesty in a Wall Street Journal op ed advising Republicans what to do. Rove, like the WSJ ed board, is a long-time amnesty booster, after all. But when it comes time to actually elect a Republican in Kentucky, this is the ad a Rove-affiliated group runs, attacking the “Obama-Grimes amnesty plan.”

It was voter opposition to Obama’s plan for a de-facto amnesty by executive action that caused the President to postpone the plan until after the election. The logical GOP move is to keep this voter opposition alive by making a big national fuss about the Democrats’ plans. Why would Republican leaders balk? Because they’re scared to get the electorate to riled against an amnesty plan that they (the GOP leaders) will start pushing as soon as the midterms are over.

Whether D.C. GOP leaders try to “nationalize” the immigration issue or not, 2014 is emerging as a de facto, sub rosa referendum on amnesty.  Immigration is the hammer wielded by Republican candidates in no less than 8 contested Senate races, by my count. It’s a central issue of the campaigns in six states — Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, New Hampshire. In two others, Republican challengers are making somewhat more feeble anti-amnesty stands — North Carolina (where the GOP candidate, Tom Tillis, has suspect anti-amnesty credentials) and Alaska. [Update: The Alaskan GOP anti-amnesty attack may not be so feeble now that Dem Sen. Begich has cast the “deciding vote backing Obama’s [executive] amnesty plan.”] If the Republicans prevail in all eight of those races they’d net a total of 6 additional seats, enough to swing the Senate.

If that happens, how will the MSM avoid mentioning the truth (that “immigration reform” cost the Democrats Senate control)? I have confidence reporters will find a way. There are lots of other issues in the world, after all. They can always blame the border surge  from Central America (which they can then declare over).** If the Republicans should fall short of a majority– by winning, say, only 6 of the amnesty-centric races***– amnesty will still have lost its referendum, but the press will be able to subsume that lesson under the “Dems Survive” headline.

But the media isn’t everything.  If Pryor, Shaheen, and Landrieu, who all voted for the Senate amnesty bill,  now get defeated (in large part) because of that vote, it is a lesson that won’t be lost on other pols, whatever the press says, whether or not the issue is “nationalized.” The lesson will be: It’s not as easy to fool the voters as the lobbyists think it is.


** — You have to wonder, what would President Obama give to Mexico in exchange for that country’s cooperation in preventing the Central American migrant flood from resuming in October, with the onset of cooler weather?

*** — Tillis and Sullivan (Begich’s opponent in Alaska) seem like the most likely losses in the Amnesty Eight races. One obvious argument for nationalizing the immigration issue would be to help Republicans even where their candidates, like Tillis, are personally weak on the issue, by making it all about the national party brands.

Even if Tillis and Begich lose, of course, Republicans could win the Senate anyway if they won (currently) non-amnesty-centric races like Colorado (Udall) and Minnesota (Franken).

Mickey Kaus