The Corner

Politics & Policy

Talking Immigration, Behind Closed Doors and On the Trail

McKay Coppins at BuzzFeed reports that Marco Rubio is bonding with donors over the failed Gang of Eight bill — not over the particulars of the bill, exactly, but over his willingness to take on a thorny political issue. The Gang of Eight bill was, of course, popular among the business class and many elites. It makes sense. 

But it also aligns with Rubio’s vision of the GOP and where he wants to take it. That’s a vision that contrasts with the one offered by Wisconsin governor Scott Walker, who as several of my colleagues have noted, is staking out a very different position on immigration, talking increasingly about the issue in the context of wages. At the border with Texas governor Greg Abbott, he said that in order to obtain citizenship, those in the country illegally “need to go to their country of origin and come in the system just like anyone else.” 

Since the Gang of Eight bill collapsed, Rubio has said he supports a border-security first approach to immigration reform, and that legislation must be passed piecemeal. That’s a tactical, not an ideological, shift. 

As Josh Kraushaar noted in National Journal, these are two different visions for the GOP, and they are the two competing in 2016: Walker’s would seek to expand the party’s white, working-class base; the other would attempt to expand the party’s reach beyond it. 

If Walker digs in in the primary, he has the potential to hurt Rubio among conservatives (though not donors).

But more importantly, perhaps, both also imagine theirs is the position that will play better against Hillary Clinton in the general election. 

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