GOP Can Win Senate Without Amnesty Fight, Says GOP Director

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
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If the GOP does not win a majority in the Senate, the GOP senators’ chief election strategist will get shoved into an unmarked grave, that strategist said Oct. 16.

“I’ll be in an unmarked grave in Kentucky,” Rob Collins, the executive director at the National Republican Senatorial Committee, told reporters.

But Collins is optimistic about his future because he’s confident the GOP will win a Senate majority in November — even though he and his aides have ignored their own polls that show Democratic and swing voters are strongly opposed to Democratic senators’ immigration votes.

“We’re going to win the Senate, I feel very good about that,” said Collins, whose committee isn’t supposed to pick legislative priorities or push ideological goals, but just to fund, train and elect GOP incumbents and candidates.

The unpopularity of the Democrats’ push for more foreign workers is underlined by large-scale polls conducted recently for the senatorial committee.

For example, 51 percent of unmarried women said they would be much more likely to vote for a GOP candidate who said that “the first goal of immigration policy needs to be getting unemployed Americans back to work — not importing more low-wage workers to replace them,” according to a September poll. An additional 19 percent of unmarried women said they would be “somewhat more likely” to vote for the GOP, said the poll, which was conducted for the committee by Paragon Insights.

Forty-two percent of Hispanics said they would be much more likely to support a GOP candidate who says that “immigration policy needs to serve the interests of the nation as a whole, not a few billionaire CEOs and immigration activists lobbying for open borders,” according to Paragon’s survey. An additional 24 percent of Hispanics said they would be “somewhat more likely” to vote GOP, said the poll.

In 2012, Gov. Mitt Romney won only 27 percent of Hispanic voters, and 35 percent of unmarried women, after Democrats spent months running visceral TV-ads accusing him of being hostile to Latinos and women.

The NRSC poll matches results from prior surveys, including a work-and-immigration survey by Kellyanne Conway.

Collins acknowledged that the immigration issue has grabbed voters’ attention — but suggested that the attention has declined in recent months.

“At the summertime… it was a huge national topic when you had unaccompanied [Central American] minors down at the border in record numbers and the American people were very focused on it,” Collins told The Daily Caller.

The immigration issue has come up in many Senate races, he said.

“Our campaigns have discussed it,” he said. “I think it hasn’t just been a base [voter] discussion — they’ve talked about it everywhere [and] the debates all week have been about it,” Collins said.

“So it has been a big part of the discussion, but I also think it get gets back to this notion that every state [looks at immigration] differently, like health care, like the economy,” he continued.

“Immigration has been a national issue that has been tailored to a regional and state-wide audience, and I think that our candidates have reflected a mood — not just of Republicans, but where their voters are — with regards to the issue,” he stated. “That’s why you have seen candidates have different views on it.”

But none of the GOP candidates — except Rep. Tom Cotton in Arkansas and Scott Brown in New Hampshire — have used Democrats’ support for the Senate’s 2013 immigration bill to paint them as as hostile to working Americans.

The Senate bill would have provided a multi-stage amnesty to at least 12 million illegals, and doubled the inflow of immigrants and guest-workers to almost 4 million per year.

That’s almost level with the annual number of 18-year-old Americans who enter the workforce seeking good jobs.

All incumbent Democratic senators voted for the four-million-a-year bill.

Instead of challenging the Democrats for their votes, the GOP candidates have talked about border security and their opposition to a blanket amnesty for the 12 million illegal immigrants living in the United States. That border-and-amnesty pitch avoids any clash with business donors — most of whom favor laws that increase the supply of workers and customers.

But it is easily countered by Democrats’ announcing their campaign-trail support for tighter border security and opposition to amnesty.

The GOP’s passivity was highlighted during the Oct. 15 Senate debate in Kansas.

The Democratic-affiliated Senate candidate, Greg Orman, told viewers that “I do not support amnesty,” but then said that illegal immigrants should be allowed to stay to compete for jobs against Americans. “You just heard my immigration policy, and it ends with allowing people to work here and follow set rules,” Orman said.

In response, GOP Sen. Pat Roberts did not talk about the impact of an amnesty on American voters who are searching for jobs or well-paid jobs. Instead, he endorsed a conditional amnesty, saying “you cannot really deport [the illegals]. That is impossible.”

In contrast, the Democratic candidate in the Kentucky race is using immigration to hit the GOP’s Senate leader, Sen. Mitch McConnell. In the ad run by Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes, Grimes said that McConnell “has voted to give amnesty and taxpayer funded benefits to three million illegal aliens — the largest legalization program in U.S. history.”

Collins’ committee works for incumbent senators — led by McConnell — not for the GOP or for conservative voters.

The committee’s focus on helping incumbents ensured tough fights this summer with the GOP’s base-voters in Mississippi and Kansas, where small-government conservatives and Tea Party activists nearly unseated established incumbents Sen. Thad Cochran and Sen. Pat Roberts.

So far, the party’s base voters in those states are returning to support the GOP senators, committee officials said.

The committee is also heavily focused on fund-raising from supportive business groups. It has raised enough money to keep pace with better-funded Democratic candidates in the last few weeks of the election, Collins said.

Because of their funding advantage, Democrats “have been pounding us with negative ads,” he said. Now the GOP has enough funding to almost level spending it the last few weeks, he said. “We’ve been able to even things up,” he said.

This year, Collins said, the GOP’s campaign is aided because it is trying to win Democratic-held seats in states won by Romney in 2008, and because the public’s support for Obama is very low. The also Ebola crisis damages public confidence in his ability to manage the agencies,  he said. “The American people are nervous about it.”

The favorable circumstances won’t exist in 2016, when the GOP candidate will have to win a national campaign, likely against Hillary Clinton, who will be backed by the media, Wall Street, the entertainment industry and many other Democratic constituencies.

Before getting the NRSC job, Collins worked for Rep. Eric Cantor, who was the GOP’s majority leader until he lost his June 2014 primary to Dave Brat, a conservative college professor. Brat’s supporters opposed Cantor, in large part, because he was thought to be pushing an amnesty for illegals.

After Cantor was defenestrated, Collins briefly worked at Purple Strategies, a bipartisan strategy and advocacy firm.

Prior to the Cantor job, he ran the business-backed American Action Network, which raises funds to support business-friendly candidates. The network was founded by Fred Malek, a hotel investor, who strongly supported the Senate’s immigration rewrite bill in June 2013.

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