One of the irritating things about the way the other GOP frontrunners have dealt with Trump is that they have interpreted Trump’s surge as being all about immigration and have all tried to essentially out-Trump the Donald on this issue. No one’s pandering on this issue has been more transparent or weak-kneed than Scott Walker, who I suppose hoped that he could co-opt at least part of Trump’s surge by positioning himself firmly on the side of an issue that he doesn’t even really seem to understand.
As a result of this and other missteps, Walker suddenly finds himself fading into the back of the pack of the second-tier candidates. Others have reacted less dramatically than Walker but still have tacked to the “right” on immigration, including Rubio. It hasn’t helped. In fact, as far as anyone an tell, it has hurt.
I am at a loss as to why, along among all the other candidates not named Trump, Ben Carson is the only one in the field who is comfortable enough in his own skin to say what he means about immigration regardless of the perceived political cost.
Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson knocked rival Donald Trump’s immigration plan on Tuesday, saying that deporting the country’s undocumented immigrants “sounds really cool” but would be far too costly and complicated.
“It sounds really cool, you know, ‘Let’s just round them all up and send them back,'” Carson said. “People who say that have no idea what that would entail in terms of our legal system, the costs – forget about it. Plus, where you gonna send them? It’s just a double whammy.”
Carson has been gaining on Trump, the GOP frontrunner, in recent polls. An NBC/Marist poll released Sunday found Carson has jumped to second place in Iowa among Republican voters, seven points behind the real estate mogul.
Trump’s immigration plan calls for deporting the estimated 11 million undocumented workers currently in the U.S., a proposal that opponents say would cost billions and would be nearly impossible to execute. Carson said that he instead favors a plan that would allow undocumented workers the chance to become guest workers.
Here is the dirty secret in Republican politics: Carson’s position is the majority position, even among Republican voters. Polls have consistently shown that well over half of Republican voters favor a path to legal status for illegal immigrants who are currently in the country, especially if conditions are met. As the nomination of George W. Bush (who explicitly ran on a path to citizenship) in 2000 and [mc_name name=’Sen. John McCain (R-AZ)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’M000303′ ] in 2008 (who authored more than one path to citizenship bill while a Senator) illustrated, having a moderate position on immigration is not a death sentence among actual Republican voters.
It is, however, likely to get you criticized by people who hold large megaphones in the conservative movement – the Laura Ingrahams and the Ann Coulters of the world, and especially by big time power brokers in Iowa like Jan Mickelson, who tend to be uniformly monolithic on immigration. And since the Republican primary in recent years has increasingly become a race to grab the right flank on everything, it seems that everyone in the race has concluded that they must toe the Trump line or else face immolation at the hands of the voters, and there’s no evidence that that is actually so. And the few who have tried have failed at it miserably.
I have no idea if Ben Carson is actively making a play for the moderate vote on immigration. I suspect, rather, that he is simply saying what he thinks and letting the chips fall where they may. And that’s really the most refreshing position of all, when it comes to this particular debate.