Paul Ryan is in Iowa today, and Paul Kane takes a look at all the jockeying and whispering around whether Ryan will run for President. It turns out even Ryan associates think the Congressional GOP’s fiscal policies — which are perhaps best expressed in Ryan’s budget, the GOP’s most comprehensive statement of priorities — think it could hamper his presidential hopes:
Even some of Ryan’s friends think the congressional brand of the Republican Party is so tainted by its fiscal battles with Obama that the GOP needs a governor to run as an outsider in 2016. Moments after Ryan finished speaking at Branstad’s Iowa event in November, the governor told reporters that he, too, wants a Republican governor, not Ryan, at the top of the ticket.
One could make the same argument about immigration. If the House GOP fails to act on immigration reform, isn’t it plausible that the House GOP brand could be so toxic among Latinos that a House Republican running for president could face an even more difficult struggle among that constituency in a general election than other Republicans (reformer type governors, for instance) might?
Indeed, the failure to pass reform could be a particularly heavy albatross for Ryan among Latinos, presuming he does run for president.
Ryan has made a lot of the right noises about immigration reform. He has carefully signaled an openness to some form of legalization, and he has correctly pointed out that the longer Congress delays in tackling reform, the worse the problem will get. With an eye on 2016, he plainly wants to be associated with elements in the GOP that want to solve the immigration problem.
But if House Republicans don’t act on reform, how much will such rhetoric matter? The reality will be that he has a track record of actual votes and actions against reform.
Ryan voted for Steve King’s amendment to end the Obama administration’s exercise of prosecutorial discretion to delay deportations of the DREAMers. He voted for another House GOP measure targeting Obama’s authority to defer those deportations. And he recently blocked an effort by Democrats to move immigration reform forward in the House.
It’s certainly possible that Ryan could prove an adept enough politician to shuck off this burden. Even if House Republicans don’t act on reform, the eventual GOP nominee will have to put forward some kind of immigration reform plan. Jorge Ramos, the influential Univision anchor, tells me he thinks Latinos very well may evaluate Ryan’s plan (or that of any other Republican candidate) independently of the House GOP’s track record on the issue. “Whoever runs, a House Republican or a Republican governor, they will have to move to our side on immigration,” Ramos says.
But Ramos also points out that before adopting his own general election reform plan, the eventual GOP nominee will have to get through a primary first, which could force him to take anti-reform positions. Ramos adds: “The House Republican brand is toxic in the Hispanic community.”
Indeed, presuming reform fails, Ryan would be running for president as a leading figure coming out of the institution (the GOP-controlled House) that single-handedly blocked immigration reform from happening for years, despite the existence of a Senate bill and a president ready to sign an immigration overhaul bringing 11 million people out of the shadows. Dems would aggressively revive Ryan’s actual track record and votes on the issue, reminding folks that Ryan — who commands great respect among House conservatives — never used his stature to prevail upon them to vote on reform, even as the House cheerfully voted on the measure offered by neo-nativist Steve King.
All of this can only hurt, particularly with the Latino share of the vote set to rise in 2016 in many key swing states.