As we’ve noted over the last 18 hours, John McCain held his first town halls in Arizona since immigration reform became headline news again in the era of ‘We All Love Immigration Reform’. One was more or less normal. The other McCain got an earful — much as you might have expected at any other time in the last half dozen years. Remember, immigration reform almost upended McCain’s run for President in 2008 and forced his move to the right on the issue in his 2010 “danged fence” reelection campaign.But McCain isn’t really the issue here. He’s used to this kind of mau-mauing, probably even enjoys it at some level. And he not up for reelection again until 2016 when he’ll be 80 years old.
The real question is, who else gets this treatment? Or is this just a one-off where a handful of activists got a very white and very senior-heavy crowd riled up over a perennial GOP issue? What Senators, what House members flirting with comprehensive immigration reform?
That is or would be the other shoe dropping in the immigration reform debate. Opposition to any form of ‘Amnesty’ or any effort to legalize rather than deport the country’s more than 10 million undocumented immigrants was intense in 2006, 2008, 2010 and 2012. And there’s little or no evidence from public polls that Republicans’ opinions on this issue has changed. But without the party apparatus or the standard rabble-rousers ginning up the issue, will those same people turn out at town halls? Threaten to primary members of Congress?
That’s the question: Can the GOP establishment get the party’s anti-reform base to sit out this two year cycle or muzzle it effectively?