Last week, Rep. Steve "Cantaloupe" King (R-Iowa) became the face of House Republican opposition to immigration reform, a development many GOP officials considered a disaster, and news welcomed by Democrats, progressives, and other proponents of reform.
The next step for the left is keeping King in the spotlight. That may not be too difficult.
The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) launched a new Spanish-language online ad campaign this morning, targeting seven vulnerable House Republicans, urging each of them to speak out in support of a comprehensive immigration solution.
For those who can't watch clips online (and/or can't speak Spanish), the ad tells viewers, "It's happened again. Once again, the debate over immigration reform has devolved to the lowest level by offensive comments and actions by extreme Republicans in Congress. In talking about young immigrants who were brought to the United States by their parents, Republican Congressman Steve King said: 'For every one who's a valedictorian, there's another 100 out there who weigh 130 pounds -- and they've got calves the size of cantaloupes because they're hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert.'
"This is offensive and an insult to our community. It's time that Republicans choose between extremism or progress. Where does Representative [name here] stand? Call him at 877-xxx-xxxx and tell him to reject the extremists in his party and join the majority of Americans in supporting immigration reform with a path to citizenship for our families."
It's not just SEIU, either. Over the weekend, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee argued that if House Republican leaders are sincerely as offended by King's bigotry as they claim, these Republican leaders would agree to remove King from the House Judiciary Committee, where he has influence over immigration policy.
What's more, Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Tom Harkin (R-Iowa) have scheduled a forum in support of the Dream Act and the kids it'll help, and they'll hold the event in King's Iowa district.
For his part, King is feeling a little defensive.
Indeed, he's aware of the criticism from his own intra-party allies, and he wants it to stop.
Rep. Steve King on Friday warned Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) he "should not speak" about the controversy swirling over the Iowa Republican's depiction of many young illegal immigrants as drug runners."I still do not believe that he has seen the video, and I really don't believe he's read the text of what I said," King told radio host Rusty Humphries on Friday.When Humphries interjected, "then he shouldn't speak," King agreed. "That's right, he should not. He should not speak."
As for Boehner, the bigger picture is still pretty ugly, as King becomes the dominant GOP voice on immigration, further alienating the party from the American mainstream. The Speaker believes King's offensive antics makes it harder to get something done legislatively on reform, but that seems entirely backwards to me -- King is discrediting the opposition, making reform easier. The more this fight comes down to decency vs. bigotry, the more Boehner is faced with a fairly easy choice.
Indeed, American Bridge published a new report the other day documenting a fascinating statistic: House Republicans, on average, vote with King on immigration 90% of the time. If Boehner and other House GOP leaders want to change this perception in the minds of voters, they're going to have to summon the courage to do what's popular and pass a real reform bill.