From SantaCruzSentinel.com, Opinion, 27 Sept 2011.
With President Barack Obama working his way back to Washington from Silicon Valley, delivering his jobs-and taxes-message, Republicans are confronting a historic political dilemma.
While the president’s popularity continues to plummet, voters nationwide are not enamored of Republicans’ job performance in Congress, which leaves the 2012 elections outlook impossible to assess more than a year out.
But this much is clear — many in the party are not confident about their field of presidential candidates.
The two leading candidates, Texas Gov. Rick Perry and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, both have serious negatives to overcome if they are to capture the hearts, minds and delegate votes of party faithful. Perry’s shoot-from-the-hip style and nearly incoherent answers to debate questions have raised alarm bells. Romney’s Obama-esque health care program in Massachusetts and his Mormon religion may keep him from overtaking Perry. Meanwhile, former Godfather’s Pizza CEO Herman Cain won the straw poll Saturday in Florida — a strong indication Republicans are ready for a candidate who can speak the truth and provide inspiration.
While there’s much to like about the plain-speaking Cain, the failure of any candidate to move into a frontrunner position has led, inevitably, to renewed calls for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to enter the 2012 race.
Christie is a former prosecutor who has won admiration among many Republicans for his budget cutting prowess in public-employee-union-dominated New Jersey.
But while Christie would seem a vastly superior candidate to Perry, it’s curious that in a party drifting rightward there would be such a clamor for him to run even as he insists he won’t.
Not only has Christie expressed support for Obama’s education policies, he’s also said he believes climate change is the real deal.
Christie also has expressed support for a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants.
Perry has already run aground trying to explain why he wanted to give in-state tuition to the children of illegal immigrants — but Christie would really ruffle feathers in a party gone decidedly, and wrongheadedly, hard-line on immigration.
(Farmworkers Forum note: Gov. Christie opposes DREAM Act legislation as he made clear last night in his speech at the Reagan Library.)
In 2008, Christie was quoted that “being in the country without proper documentation is not a crime.”
Tell that to the other candidates and immigration hawks in Congress.
In 2010, the governor said that immigration is a federal issue and “should be handled by the feds” who “have to put forth a commonsense path to citizenship for people.”
Put aside that Christie is right — the greater issue is could he, or any candidate, bring the party out of woeful restrictionist policies repugnant to many Latino voters? Consider that earlier this year, Republican House Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith of Texas introduced the Legal Workforce Act, which would force employers to run names and Social Security numbers of their workforce through the federal E-Verify database.
Agricultural producers — an industry in which three quarters of the people who pick this country’s fruit and vegetables are undocumented — hate this bill. Not only has E-Verify proven to be unreliable, it will scare away ag workers, leading to labor shortages and causing some growers to move outside the U.S. Far better would be the AgJobs proposal, which would allow about 1.5 million illegals to remain in this country and eventually earn legal status. But Smith and other Republicans have denounced this program as “mass amnesty” for illegal immigrant farmworkers.
Republicans are on the wrong side of immigration. Government should be working to provide more paths to legal immigration and not put more federal restrictions on business.
We’re waiting for one Republican presidential candidate to speak truthfully and intelligently on this issue. Perhaps we’re waiting for Gov. Christie.