At NRO, Jim Geraghty picks up on the McCain deathwatch story, and wonders about the role of the immigration issue in his campaign's downward spiral. In an article fueled by quotes from anonymous strategists in opposing Republican camps, Geraghty reveals how McCain's sponsorship of the immigration bill is causing problems not just for the Arizona Senator himself, but for the rest of the Republican field. While rival Republican candidates can use the issue to flog McCain, at least some of their advisors are smart enough to wish the whole issue would just go away:
"I don’t know how much shelf-life this issue has for Republicans," the rival strategist says. "This was Karl Rove’s brilliant idea to permanently cement the Hispanic vote to the Republican base. Well, so far, all we’ve seen it do is aggravate Hispanics and divide our base. The longer we’re talking about this issue, the deeper we’re digging this hole. And where the hell is McCain? He threw our party into this briar patch. He makes the deal with Kennedy, creating this mess, and then he’s out on the campaign trail raising money."The thing is, it's a briar patch of the right's own making. Geraghty cites an anti-Hispanic "comedy" bit on a recent edition of Rush Limbaugh's radio show, but Linda Chavez's recent complaints tell the story more graphically -- the more that Republicans talk about immigration, the more nastiness they bring out in their own base. And that's not going to be good for them in the long run. Geraghty's source understands the ramifications:
"Symbolism of this bill may be more important than substance," says the rival strategist. He laments that the debate on the Republican side is turning into who can most vehemently denounce illegal immigrants, and to Hispanic ears, it may sound hostile to all immigrants, regardless of their legal status. "Sometimes it’s not the words that people hear, but the theme music in the background."Immigration may be the most natural issue for McCain's GOP rivals to use against him -- since it's the area in which he is most clearly at odds with the party's base -- but using it that way is ultimately self-destructive for Republicans. No wonder they're all so eager to see John McCain disappear.