A tough, Arizona-style anti-immigration bill in the Indiana state Legislature has put Gov. Mitch Daniels — who is mum on whether he backs it — on a collision course with tea party activists who see it as a big priority and could have national implications for the Indiana governor in a GOP presidential primary.
Daniels, who's mulling a White House run in 2012 and won rave reviews for his CPAC speech last weekend, has yet to take a stand on legislation introduced by State Sen. Mike Delph that died under Democratic-controlled Legislatures in each of the last several years — but faces greatly improved odds of passing this time around.
The latest version of the measure creates tough enforcement provisions, requiring cops to ask for proof of immigration status if they have "reasonable" suspicion about someone they've stopped for an unrelated issue — like blowing a traffic light. It also creates strict penalties for employers of illegals.
And this year, the Indiana House of Representatives came under GOP control after a 2010 election shift — upping the chances that the legislation will pass and that Daniels, who’s made his reputation as a fiscal conservative, will end up having to take a stand on the thorny social issue.
Already, tea party activists — who are expected to be influential in the Republican primary process — are demanding Daniels show his cards and come out in support of the bill.
That doesn't look likely:
Murphy noted that the governor's office conducted a cost impact study on the bill and fixed it with a roughly $5 million price tag for enforcement — something he said he sees as an indication that Daniels' team is leaning against it. He also noted the governor has historically had strong relations with the growing Hispanic population, adding, "He speaks Spanish as a second language."
A lot of Republicans running in 2012 are going to face problems with the Tea Party on immigration. The Tea Party groups didn't address immigration (except maybe those in Arizona), just as they avoided all issues other than spending and size of government, and that was a smart move at the time. But as an outpouring of populist nationalism, they are almost coterminous with immigration hawks, and woe to any open-borders Republican seeking their help. This is why Dick Armey and Grover Norquist, both strong open-borders guys, don't even utter the word “immigration” to Tea Party folks, lest they have tomatoes thrown at them.
Jeff Flake, for instance, may face rough sledding because of his C- grade from Numbers USA, making him one of the worst House Republicans on immigration. (He has the same grade as Gabby Giffords, who’s one of the better House Democrats.) And this is why Orrin Hatch (a grade of D+) is trying to help himself by introducing tough legislation (which he unveiled last week at the Heritage Foundation).
The same goes for presidential candidates. Numbers USA's presidential grade card is mostly incomplete, since it's so early, but while the grades themselves may not tell us much objectively, they’re useful in comparing presidential hopefuls with each other. The possible candidates with the strongest stances are Pawlenty and Thune, while Barbour and Gingrich are the worst (can we call him Amnesty Haley yet?).