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Immigration reform: Can a supporter win GOP nomination in 2016?

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Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

(Read caption) US Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) departs following the weekly Republican caucus luncheon at the US Capitol on Tuesday.

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Hanging over the Washington battle about immigration reform is the dicey question of how the issue might affect the White House hopes of those Republicans supporting the legislation. Namely, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and former Sunshine State governor Jeb Bush.

One broader political narrative in play is that the GOP must make a move to woo the nation’s growing Hispanic voter population – and that if lawmakers stand in the way of reform, they’re further alienating citizens who have already shown a deepening allegiance to the Democratic Party. Hispanics twice backed Barack Obama’s presidential campaign.

But in key early caucus and primary states, Iowa in particular, Republican primary voters are socially conservative, largely white, and prone to supporting firebrands who rail against abortion, for example, and to courting Evangelicals. They wrap themselves in the flag. Often effectively.

See winners like Mike Huckabee in Iowa (2008) and Pat Buchanan in New Hampshire (1996).

So for Republicans, there’s an obvious tension in positioning around the immigration issue. Should GOP hopefuls aim to win 2016 primary contests with an anti-immigration reform stance that could potentially turn off valuable general-election swing voters? Think potential White House wannabes Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Ted Cruz of Texas, who have made clear their views against reform and for a stronger border.


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