The Campaign Spot

Why Did Mitt Go After Rudy on the Eve of His Big Win in Ames?

Something about yesterday’s spat between Romney and Rudy is nagging at me…

Romney’s heading into the Ames straw poll with expectations high, and while every politician wants to avoid excessively high expectations going into a contest, it’s really hard to imagine that late Saturday we’ll be hearing anything beyond, “Romney won big.” Rudy, McCain, and Fred are staying home, meaning Romney’s biggest competitors are Huckabee, Brownback, and maybe Ron Paul? And even then, the “not Romney” vote is going to be split among those three AND Duncan Hunter AND Tommy Thompson AND Tom Tancredo. It’s easy to imagine the non-Mitt vote split among the rest, and none of them reaching double digits.
So why did Romney come out swinging at Rudy yesterday? And on sanctuary cities?
Usually, when a mayor or town council or whoever declares themselves a “sanctuary city”, it’s a form of political protest by a bunch of liberals who don’t believe we should have any immigration enforcement. For example:

Cambridge’s May 8 declaration, which renewed a sanctuary city designation first established in 1985, called for a moratorium on immigration raids by federal authorities pending comprehensive reform, affirmed the human rights of undocumented immigrants, and condemned legislation passed by the US House in December that would crack down on illegal immigration.

Or Maywood, California:

The city council of Maywood, California, declared the town a refuge for undocumented residents in January. Coachella, California, followed suit in March by passing a resolution stating that “the city will provide a safe, healthy, and dignified place to live for its immigrant communities, regardless of immigration status.” “When Maywood declared itself a sanctuary,” David Velásquez, a priest at Maywood’s St. Rose of Lima parish, told Sojourners, “the people in the church really rejoiced. It is really a miracle for us. We now know that the police will actually respect the people.” 

Or the comments in Chelsea, Massachusetts’ declaration

Whereas, Over the past two decades, immigration policy has become even more restrictive and punitive and has closed off avenues previously available for immigrants to obtain legal, permanent residency; and…
Whereas, Immigration raids that spread fear and break-up families are not warranted or wanted in Chelsea; and

In other words, most sanctuary city laws are passed by those who think there’s something wrong, and inherently cruel and unfairly punitive, by enforcing immigration laws. These are not law-and-order types.
Does anybody really think Rudy Giuliani is ”cool” with lawbreaking? That his instinct is to look the other way when somebody makes a mockery of the law? Isn’t the whole line of criticism against him the opposite, that he’s draconian, and punitive, and harsh, and merciless?.Rudy’s argument was that he would have loved to get rid of illegal immigrants, and in particular the drug dealers, gang members, and ones who were engaged in criminal activity beyond their entry into the U.S., but that he couldn’t get the Feds to do anything. I figure even the harshest anti-illegal-immigrant types hear that and nod..So what’s he supposed to do with hundreds of thousands, perhaps a million or more illegal immigrants in his city, with tens of thousands of children? Not let them enter city hospitals, and have them spreading TB or other infectuous diseases? Have them reluctant to go to the police and report crimes, so that the criminals can prey on them with impunity? Not let the kids into city schools, and have tens of thousands of teenagers on the city streets during the day? He saw two bad options, and concluded denying illegal immigrants city services like hospitals, schools, and access to the police was the lesser evil. We can disagree, but I don’t think that’s an unreasonable position..The ”let’s all live in peace and sing Kumbaya” sanctuary city resolutions – that’s an unreasonable position.So this oddly-timed fight – on the eve of what ought to be a big Romney win, with Rudy on the sidelines – was on my mind when I read this message from CampaignSpot reader Mark:

Over the last month I’ve spoken to several political consultants and campaign advisers on both sides, 2 of them with decades of effective experience..Every one of them told me the same thing.  The Republican nomination is going to be a close battle between Thompson and Giuliani with the former having a marginal lead.  (These are people who go over the congressional districts in their minds for sport and for a living.  They all believe that Mitt Romney’s problems are so great that even Alex Gage can’t get over them.  And none of them think that his major problem is the Mormon issue.).They think that the biggest reason that  Hillary is going to win the Presidency is that when Mitt Romney starts to flail, he or his surrogates will go ruthlessly negative on his opponents and do her dirty work for her.  (As one of them told me, “Listen to the /#%*& on the Hugh Hewitt show.”  When several months ago  Mitt falsely accused Rudy of being pro-gay marriage on CBN the same guy emailed me: “he’s starting already”.)   All of them are sure that this will do nothing for Romney, but it will cripple the nominee.

I don’t completely agree with Mark. I don’t think Romney or his allies will throw anything at Fred or Rudy or any other Republican that the Hillary campaign wouldn’t use eventually. Yes, he’s hitting them for not being conservative enough while she’ll focus on hitting either of them for being too conservative. But by Election Day 2008, I figure the Hillary campaign will be throwing everything including the kitchen sink at its opponents….And I’m not sure any candidate going negative on another would necessarily hurt the nominee. My guess is that with three big Republican candidates (and McCain hanging around, ready to jump back up if opportunity knocks), we would see a version of the Gephardt-Dean “murder-suicide” the guy who goes negative on one opponent hurts the target and himself, and people shift to the third, uninvolved candidate (In Iowa, it was Kerry, and to a lesser extent, Edwards)..If Romney goes negative on Fred, I think Rudy gains ground, and vice versa. And I don’t think any candidate will go negative on two candidates at once, because A) it splits limited resources and B) it makes them too obvious a “villain,” and they’ll get slammed by the two targets, and the press, and the left simultaneously for negative campaigning.

I also think all the candidates notice this, and as a result, there will be some hesitation about going negative…

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