Wednesday, November 23, 2011

"Gingrich’s views on immigration are not all that far out of step with those of Republican voters."

Nate Silver of the New York Times has a good piece out about Newt's immigration policy.

In it, he writes:
[M]y view is that the markets probably overreacted in this case and that Mr. Gingrich’s answer will not be all that harmful to him.

One reason is simply that Mr. Gingrich’s views on immigration are not all that far out of step with those of Republican voters. Although I can’t find a survey that catalogs Republican responses to Mr. Gingrich’s proposal exactly, a New York Times/CBS News poll from May 2010 on a broad range of immigration-related issues provides some evidence about an analogous proposal.


Among Republican respondents to the survey, 42 percent said the immigrants should be required to leave. But 31 percent said they should be able to stay and apply for citizenship. An additional 23 percent picked the middle option: the immigrants should be allowed to stay, but as guest workers rather than citizens.
I suspect that commentators take too literal-minded an approach when predicting how a candidate’s position on the issues will play with primary voters. Yes, there are a few issues like abortion that are threshold tests in a Republican primary, but others like immigration are more complex. Voters may tolerate a fairly wide range of responses provided that the candidate’s head and heart seem to be in the right place. Alternatively, issues that do not seem all that salient may become much more so if the candidate cannot explain them adequately or if his position seems insincere.

One thing that Mr. Gingrich has going for him is that conservatives feel that both his head and his heart are indeed in the right place. The heart part is easy: after the time he spent as speaker of the House feuding with President Clinton on the welfare state and most everything else, there are few doubts about his conservative team spirit. By contrast, many influential Republican commentators say point-blank that Mitt Romney is not a real conservative at heart and is instead a Northeastern (i.e. moderate) Republican. One significant piece of evidence for this, of course, is that Mr. Romney’s only elected office was the governor of Massachusetts, and that he took generally moderate positions there.

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