Last week, the National Republican Senatorial Committee launched a slightly unexpected attack ad. The NRSC, at least somewhat worried about the Senate race in Georgia, went after Michele Nunn (D) for supporting “amnesty” for undocumented immigrants. The problem was with the NRSC’s proof.
According to the National Republican Senatorial Committee, Nunn must support “amnesty” since she’s endorsed the bipartisan, comprehensive immigration reform bill, co-authored by four Republican senators – Marco Rubio, John McCain, Lindsey Graham, and Jeff Flake – and easily passed by the Senate last year.
In other words, according to the Republicans’ Senate committee, Nunn deserves to be condemned for agreeing with several prominent Republicans.
And this week, it’s happened again.
On Monday, Alison Lundergan Grimes, the Democratic challenger to Sen. Mitch McConnell in the hard-fought Kentucky senate race, tried to distance herself from President Obama with an ad showing her shooting a gun. McConnell responded in kind. At the same time, an independent group with connections to Republican strategist Karl Rove began airing this ad blasting the “Obama-Grimes” plan to give “amnesty” to illegal immigrants.
Now, Lundergan Grimes hasn’t been in Congress, so she couldn’t vote one way or the other on comprehensive immigration reform, but the Kentucky candidate did endorse the bipartisan reform package co-authored by some conservative Republicans.
Then again, so did did Karl Rove’s operations. And therein lies the point: Rove and his pals in the Bluegrass State are now condemning Lundergan Grimes … for agreeing with Karl Rove about immigration policy.
All of this may seem like business as usual for Republicans in an election year, but I’d argue there’s more to it.
Up until very recently, it was best to be at least somewhat cautious when talking about the official Republican Party line on immigration. Sure, most of the GOP has adopted a striking anti-immigrant posture, but there was at least some diversity of thought within party overall, and the Republican leadership was generally reluctant to align itself with the far-right line.
That was true a few months ago, but that moment appears to have passed – and the diversity of thought is gone. Karl Rove’s group is now attacking one red-state Democrat for having the audacity to agree with Karl Rove, while the NRSC attacks another red-state Democrat for endorsing legislation co-written by Marco Rubio and John McCain.
Indeed, Rubio and McCain are both personally moving away from the very bill they helped craft in the first place.
Reform supporters were obviously outraged when President Obama delayed an announcement on executive actions from September to November, presumably creating an opportunity for Republicans to consider a new round of outreach to the immigrant community and its allies shortly before the election.
But as these latest moves help make clear, Republicans don’t seem especially interested in such an opportunity. The GOP instead wants to make clear that it, on an institutional level, opposes immigration reform and will blast candidates and policymakers who disagree.