Romney, McCain and the Immigration Fix: The Ticker

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By Francis Wilkinson

NBC's First Read blog interviewed Arizona Senator John McCain yesterday after his endorsement of Mitt Romney. Here's what the blog reported:

Toward the end of the interview, we asked McCain this question: Is Arizona in play in the general election? And his reaction was especially telling. He paused for a few moments and replied, “I think that if not this election cycle, the demographics are that Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, even Texas will all be in play.” McCain, who was once a principal architect of comprehensive immigration reform but who no longer supports it until the border is secured, added: “We have to fix our problems with the Hispanics.”

Trouble is, back when Romney thought Texas Governor Rick Perry was his biggest obstacle to the Republican nomination, Romney drew a hard line on illegal immigration, denouncing Perry's support of in-state tuition rates at state schools for illegal immigrants and opposing the Dream Act, which would provide a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants who enlist in the armed forces or attend college. Perry's soft touch on immigration set him apart from the Republican field -- and proved fatal.

President Barack Obama gave Republicans a political opening to Hispanic voters by deporting one million illegal aliens, a record number and a source of enormous irritation to many Hispanics. For Republicans to exploit that opening, however, and fix their "problems" with Hispanics, the party must first fix its policies.

There appears to be no appetite for that. As a result, the party continues to be overwhelmingly white in a nation that increasingly isn't. Republicans' limited outreach to minority voters, which was evident during the George W. Bush era, appears to have stopped altogether.  That leaves McCain, like every other political observer, with an eye on the demographic hour glass, wondering in which election -- 2012? 2016? 2020? -- the sand will run out on his party.

(Francis Wilkinson is a member of the Bloomberg View editorial board.)

-0- Jan/05/2012 22:19 GMT