Report: Romney nudging Graham to strike immigration deal before election?


A tantalizing bit of 2012 gossip dropped way, way down in an otherwise fun piece about amnesty shills boo-hooing over having (temporarily) lost McCain. Note to Politico: This is what’s called “burying the lede.”

Their hope now is that Republican presidential candidates and former operatives under Bush, a reform proponent, can convince GOP congressional leaders that the issue needs to be dealt with before 2012 — or that they could risk alienating the burgeoning Hispanic vote in the crucial swing states of New Mexico, Colorado, Nevada, Arizona and Florida.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, a front-runner for the nomination, has signaled quietly to Graham that Republicans must address immigration before the campaign heats up, according to several sources familiar with the conversation.

Graham’s push against birthright citizenship prompted this response on POLITICO’s Arena from Cesar Conda, a former domestic policy adviser to Vice President Dick Cheney: “If the Republican Party embraces ending birthright citizenship, then it will be assured losing Latino and ethnic voters — and presidential elections for the foreseeable future.”

Now I’m more confused than ever about why Graham’s pushing the birthright citizenship amendment. If he really is thinking about trying to settle the immigration issue before 2012 — which may be do-able, given the electoral pressure from Latinos that the GOP leadership will be feeling — what does he gain by staking out a position further to the right than he’s ever gone before? I have to assume that it’s precisely because he thinks a deal is likely that he wants to stockpile conservative demands now so that he can give up on them early in the interests of “compromise.” If he sacrifices birthright citizenship in the interests of “being reasonable” but stands firm on securing the border first, it’ll give the Dems some cover on agreeing to the latter. In fact, Politico notes that his comprehensive bill co-written with Schumer already would have made amnesty contingent on first reaching certain benchmarks vis-a-vis border security; Graham’s now insisting that that’s no longer enough, that he wants a separate “borders only” bill before amnesty comes back on the table, but I’ve got a crazy hunch that he’s just staking out a bargaining position there, too.

As for Mitt’s role in this, it’s not like he’s nudging Graham to strike a deal on his behalf. Getting immigration off the table would, in theory, benefit whoever the eventual nominee is. But suspicions about him among the righty base plus the fact that it’s Grahamnesty, of all people, that he’s coordinating with here instead of, say, Jim DeMint isn’t going to win him any new fans. Exit question: Any fallout over this for him, or no biggie?

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