"Morning Joe" Talks about Republican Skepticism

By Jerry Kammer and Jerry Kammer on May 2, 2013

On this morning's "Morning Joe" program, co-host Willy Geist began a conversation with Politico's Mike Allen and Jim VandeHei by noting the growing skepticism of some Republicans about the Gang of Eight immigration reform legislation. Here is how the conversation unfolded.

GEIST: This is no sure thing before the end of the year, is it?

ALLEN: It's not. And just this morning we're seeing a new sign of conservatives pushing back on it. National Review, the top conservative magazine — their cover calls this "Rubio's Folly". That hurts because we're going to see that everywhere today.

GEIST: What is it that they object to so much inside this proposal, Jim?

VAN DEHEI: Generally, they're skeptical of any of these enforcement measures along the borders that would be required before you get a pathway to citizenship. I think what they're really, really skeptical about is ultimately the pathway to citizenship, this idea of taking 10 or 12 million people who are here illegally and making them legal citizens of the United States or giving them legal status. And in the House it's going to be a tough sell. Jack Kingston is quoted in the New York Times this morning [expressing skepticism]. We've heard from a lot of congressmen. They're not hearing anything about, "Hey, go do immigration reform." So, I think the assumption is this gets done this year. I think that assumption could be flawed once it gets to the House because House Republicans are not anxious to do this.

ALLEN: A nod to these concerns: Sen. Marco Rubio is now saying, "Well, we've always said that this was going to be a work in progress. And they said that on the security measures, those triggers that would allow that path to citizenship, they're going to toughen them up because as he's talked to conservatives the biggest thing he's found is that they don't trust the administration and specifically the Homeland Security Department and Secretary Napolitano to do what's being promised in this legislation. So as they work on it they're going to add things to help conservatives. Over the weekend we're going to see Heritage [Foundation] come out with a report talking about the cost of this. People who are for immigration reform will push back on the methodology. But it's another rock in the backpack for the reformers.

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GEIST: If conservatives are seen as squashing immigration reform this year or next year, whenever it comes up, what does that mean politically? What does that mean to the Republican brand, because there's been a lot of hand-wringing about "Okay, if you do that you lose 11, 12 million potential future voters."

VANDEHEI: I think it would be devastating. There are a lot of Republicans who think it would make it almost impossible for them to win a national election in 2016. If you look at what happened last time around, Republicans lose the Hispanic vote by 40 points. They lose the election. They singe-handedly lost Florida because of their underperformance among Hispanics. And they have to get beyond immigration reform, beyond this pathway to citizenship, to begin a conversation, to be able to connect with that community. That is certainly the view of Marco Rubio, of Karl Rove, of people who have been in national elections for some time. And I think it could hurt them.

ALLEN: And it's probably why they find a way to crack this code. Because the combination of demographic reality, legacies [for President Obama], and a political imperative, is a big push for it to happen.