How can Republicans recapture the U.S. Senate from Harry Reid and the Democrats? A new Politico poll points to a winning strategy — if GOP leaders have the courage to use the remaining seven weeks to nationalize the elections around one game-changing issue.
Under the headline, “GOP has edge on immigration in midterms,” Politico offered a surprising review of battleground House and Senate races. The generally liberal publication found that two-thirds of likely voters disapprove of President Obama’s handling of the issue — and that even independent voters trust the GOP over the Democrats on the subject.
The crystalizing issue: the Texas border crisis. While the administration and the liberal media have used the emergency to shill for open borders, everyday Americans have reiterated their support for law and order. According to the poll, nearly half (49 percent) of respondents believe migrant children should return to their homeland; only 29 percent want them to stay.
The Politico tally is no outlier. It mirrors Gallup polls confirming that American attitudes this election year favor immigration control. In June, Gallup reported that just 22 percent of Americans want to increase immigration levels (while 41 percent want to see immigration actually reduced), while Gallup last month ranked “illegal immigration/illegal aliens” as the country’s No. 2 problem.
That’s not what the GOP old guard wants to hear. As late as January, establishment Republicans — including former Majority Leader Eric Cantor — were clamoring for the GOP to strike a so-called “reform” deal with Obama. From Jeb Bush and Paul Ryan to Karl Rove and Reince Priebus, old schoolers continue to believe that delivering amnesty and further boosting immigration will redeem the 2012 Romney defeat and magically transform Hispanics into Republicans. Just this week, John Feehery, an influential adviser to conservative House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, encouraged the party to quickly deliver amnesty legislation if the party wins the Senate.
Yet the polls vindicate a cadre of insurgents who have, in the past few months, managed to transform the debate — and the GOP — by standing for American sovereignty, national security, and solidarity with anxious middle-income workers. From Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions to radio host Laura Ingraham and Breitbart News, these pacesetters — some Republican, some independent, but all patriots — understand that big themes win elections. Rather than making nice with an unpopular president, they’re offering voters the proverbial “choice, not an echo,” reflecting the sentiments of a Middle America ignored by both parties for a generation.
In touch with heartland voters, these insurgents understand that “comprehensive immigration reform” would be political suicide, akin to “comprehensive health insurance.” As Daniel Horowitz recently observed on Breitbart:
Ponder for a moment where we would be politically if Republicans had spent the past five years promoting Obamacare and targeting the GOP’s own members with millions of dollars’ worth of ads beckoning conservatives to support Obama’s signature legislation. Well, that is exactly what Republicans have done with the immigration debate.
Indeed, voter pushback explains why Obama has postponed his pending (and unconstitutional) amnesty decree until after the election; why the Senate Gang-of-Eight immigration reform package, backed by an out-of-touch House leadership, went nowhere; why Cantor became the first Majority Leader to lose a primary; and why the House woke up to pass tough legislation in June that yanks at the roots of the president’s concocted border crisis.
Much of the credit for this remarkable shift belongs to Sen. Sessions, who has done more than anyone on Capitol Hill to foil the amnesty schemes of the president and his Republican predecessor. Hailed by journalist Mickey Kaus as the only Capitol Hill Republican who won’t sell out to Wall Street and the globalists, the Alabaman has indicted the political class for placing the interests of multinational corporations and foreigners ahead of 20-plus million unemployed and underemployed citizens.
In a courageous floor speech last week, the Alabama senator continued to challenge the malefactors of great wealth, “the masters of the universe” — especially the tech oligarchy of Silicon Valley — who demand more H-1B guest-worker visas to flood an already lousy labor market and depress wages even further.
Also leading the resistance has been Laura — the Iron Lady of talk radio who helped Dave Brat bring down Cantor — as well as media hosts Sean Hannity and Mark Levin. Meanwhile, Breitbart boosted public anxiety over illegal immigration and Obama’s leadership with exclusive coverage of the border crisis, and forced Marco Rubio’s about-face on amnesty.
Yet to capitalize on the “Sovereignty Solution,” the GOP must turn the midterms into a national referendum on Obama’s amnesty plans, a strategy recommended by Sen. Ted Cruz, whose latest video calls for securing the border and holding the Democrats accountable.
James P. Pinkerton, a veteran of the Reagan White House and now a Fox News contributor, argues that Republicans need a 1980 or 2004-type “wave” election highlighting a “wave” issue to win the Senate. He asserts that it’s not too late to nationalize the campaign, recalling Newt Gingrich’s Contract with America, unveiled September 27, just six weeks before the historic 1994 midterm election.
Twenty years later, the issues are different but the strategy remains the same. When a wave comes, candidates must ride it — and most Republican challengers would probably sweep into office on an immigration-control tsunami washing away the Democrats. In fact, we’re halfway there, as tough anti-amnesty spots are being aired in support of GOP Senate candidates in Kentucky, New Hampshire, Michigan, Arkansas, and Louisiana, among the competitive states surveyed by Politico.
Those ads need to be broadcast nationally and especially in battlegrounds, hammering Obama and the Democrats on the risks that porous borders pose to national security and middle-class jobs. If Republicans do that, they’ll retire more than enough Democratic senators to retake the Senate — and lead a transformation of American politics that Karl Rove never saw coming.
Robert W. Patterson served in the administrations of President George W. Bush and Pennsylvania governor Tom Corbett. Follow him on Twitter @RWPatterson.