Rubio’s Office Attacks Politico ‘Myth’ That Immigration Reform Will Elect Democrats

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April 23, 2013 9:51 am
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Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) is pushing back hard against suggestions that his immigration bill will be an electoral boon for Democratic candidates, arguing that Republicans can win back Latinos with improved messaging and that long term predictions to the contrary are idle speculation.Today’s target is an article in Politico gaming out how the immigration bill could be a “bonanza” for Democrats if the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the country today gain citizenship and follow the same voting pattern as Latinos in 2012.

While the author cautioned that the exercise was “inherently speculative” and not meant to be a solid prediction, the report noted that President Obama’s winning margin would have been substantially larger if the entire undocumented population had citizenship and voted in 2012, nearly putting Arizona in his column and padding his margin in several swing states.

Rubio’s office, which has been fending off attacks from conservatives over immigration reform’s political implications for months, responded in force with a debunker of the story Tuesday afternoon. It was one of a series of “Myths vs. Facts” press releases they’ve put out since the “Gang of 8” debuted the bipartisan immigration bill last week.

Among the holes the fact sheet noted: the analysis assumed all undocumented immigrants were Hispanic (according to a 2009 Pew study, only 76 percent are) and that all undocumented immigrants today would receive citizenship (there’s no way to tell how many will choose to apply for citizenship, which will require a number of steps to achieve).

“FACT: Not all 11 million illegal immigrants here today will qualify to become citizens, and not all of the 11 million illegal immigrants are Hispanic,” the Rubio release read. “Historically, many green card holders choose not to become citizens. And, unfortunately, not all eligible voters – regardless of their backgrounds – turn out to vote. Under the immigration legislation, not all illegal immigrants currently in this country will be eligible for temporary status and, as a result, will be subject to deportation.”

Rubio’s office wasn’t the only one to take issue with the Politico piece. New York Times forecaster Nate Silver, who feuded with Politico throughout the election over his ultimately accurate prediction of an Obama victory, raised similar points on Twitter — with a little trash talk thrown in.

The New Republic’s Nate Cohn, another prominent polling reporter in the 2012 election, took a deeper dive into Politico’s analysis and excoriated it for largely the same reasons, concluding it “exaggerates and mischaracterizes” the GOP’s dilemma.

“In effect, this ‘analysis’ assumes that every undocumented worker will become a citizen, and that every new citizen will vote in the 2028 election,” he wrote. “This is ludicrous.”

Cohn added that the Politico post didn’t take into account overall population growth, which would dilute the impact of the new citizens in 2028 when the bulk would be eligible to vote for the first time — and that’s assuming the bill is implemented on schedule, which is another open question given its border trigger mechanisms and the potential for bureaucratic delays.

Rubio’s response, however, is indicative of how dangerous pro-reform Republicans consider the meme that immigration reform inherently boosts Democrats. Rubio himself sparred with Rush Limbaugh last week over the conservative radio host’s suggestion that the GOP was “committing suicide” with his bill because newly legalized Hispanic immigrants were hostile to the free market and would never vote for Republicans.

“I’m not prepared to admit that there’s this entire population of people who, because of their heritage, are not willing to listen to our pitch about why limited government is better,” Rubio told Limbaugh.

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