The Corner

The GOP Field’s Immigration Opportunity: Will 2008 Drive 2007?

Several weeks back, I argued, in the course of publicly endorsing Rudy Giuliani’s presidential bid, that maybe the overly long 2008 campaign is not such a bad thing — that with government adrift and its leadership at loggerheads and held in low public esteem, the presidential contendors might be able to drive policy. Immigration will be a big test of that notion, and Mitt Romney is seizing the day.  This from Stephen Dinan at the Washington Times:

In forging an immigration deal this week, President Bush turned away from Republican allies in favor of striking a deal with Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, banking on the senior legislator to deliver enough Democrats to pass a bill.  But the strategy may come back to haunt him, as many Democrats said they can’t accept the agreement and Republicans lined up to criticize both the deal and Mr. Bush, their party’s leader.

    And it may only get worse for Mr. Bush, as political forces drive the issue: Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor running for the Republican presidential nomination, injected the issue straight into 2008 presidential politics, announcing he was running television commercials calling for better enforcement as the solution to illegal immigration.

    ”The president’s willingness to accept the granting of amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants has sent a harmful message to Republican voters around the country,” said Rep. Mike Pence, Indiana Republican. “But I also believe that’ll sort itself out in the primaries of 2008. At the end of the day, this is an issue where I find myself focusing less on politics than what policy I think is in the best interests of the American people.”

    Last year, both Mr. Pence and Sen. John Cornyn of Texas appeared to be promising allies for Mr. Bush. Mr. Pence met with the president in the Oval Office to talk about the congressman’s plan to have illegal aliens leave the country and apply to re-enter from outside. When Democrats won control of Congress, Mr. Bush tacked left, negotiating with Mr. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat, and producing a deal on Thursday that many Republicans say is amnesty.