When Republican wise men penned their autopsy into what went wrong in 2012, counseling a more welcoming posture towards the fast growing Latino demographic, they probably could not have imagined that only a few years later, the most “moderate” candidate on immigration in the 2016 GOP field would be the one calling for more enforcement against “anchor babies.”

Nor could they have imagined that the candidate dictating the terms of the party’s debate about immigration would be the one who is proposing an end to birthright citizenship and the deportation of 11 million undocumented immigrants.

The 2016 Republican primary has turned into a puzzle about how to deal with Donald Trump….
Though flummoxed by Trump’s staying power and aghast at the coarse tone he has brought to the race, party elites said they have no plan to take him down. Donors feel powerless. Republican officials have little leverage. Candidates are skittish. Super PAC operatives say attack ads against him could backfire. And everyone agrees that the Trump factor in this chaotic multi-candidate field is so unpredictable that any move carries dangerous risks.
The non-Trump candidates are falling into three categories: Those who are emulating and befriending him in an effort to win over his supporters; those who are assailing his background or calling him out for his views and rhetoric; and those who prefer to stay silent, as if hunkering down in the basement to ride out the tornado.

Scott Walker is reportedly making a bid for Trump voters by casting himself as a scourge of the GOP establishment. Meanwhile, many other GOP candidates have, at a minimum, signaled openness to his call for ending birthright citizenship. One of them, Ted Cruz, seems to be edging towards Trump’s overall posture. David Drucker reports on a radio interview in which Cruz flatly stated: “I welcome Donald Trump’s immigration proposal.” And:

Cruz did not comment on the more exotic proposals Trump offered, including leveling tariffs on Mexico to force them to pay for the wall, forcibly rounding up millions of illegal immigrants, even deporting their citizen family members if necessary, and searching through and impounding money that illegal immigrants send to family back in their home country.
He has studiously avoided upsetting the angry voters who are for the moment fueling Trump’s campaign, but who could easily look for an alternative down the road.

Is it really possible that some of Trump’s rivals worry that disagreeing with his call to deport 11 million could be a liability among these voters? I’ve repeatedly argued that there is evidence that GOP primary voters may be open to legalization in some circumstances and that their immigration views may be more nuanced than many liberals allow. So I find that hard to believe. But polling does show that large percentages of Republicans agree with Trump’s views. And now right-leaning writers such as Charles Krauthammer and Michael Gerson are calling on fellow Republicans to more vocally denounce Trump’s cattle car fantasies.

Meanwhile, Jeb Bush is still taking heat for describing children born in the U.S. to undocumented immigrant parents as “anchor babies.” In fairness to Bush, he made this comment in the course of pushing back on Trump’s call for an end to birthright citizenship, arguing instead for more enforcement against said “anchor babies.” And on the trail yesterday he spoke searchingly about how immigrants must feel when they hear GOP rhetoric, arguing: “when they hear this, what they hear is: ‘You don’t think I’m part of this. You don’t think I’m part of this country.'”

But Bush is still defending the use of the term “anchor babies,” and his call for more enforcement against this supposed phenomenon is itself deeply problematic.  To repeat: In today’s 2016 GOP presidential field, this is now the moderate position.


* OBAMA PRESSURES DEMS ON IRAN DEAL: The New York Times reports that Obama has written a letter to wavering Dems designed to assuage their concerns about the nuclear accord with Iran. It tells them the administration will continue to apply economic pressure on Iran to comply with the deal after it goes into effect, and reiterates that the military option will remain alive:

“Should Iran seek to dash toward a nuclear weapon, all of the options available to the United States — including the military option — will remain available through the life of the deal and beyond,” Mr. Obama wrote.

The fact that the military option remains on the table even if the agreement goes forward is key, but it has continually gotten lost in the discussion.

* KEY DEMOCRAT TO ENDORSE IRAN AGREEMENT: The Times also reports that Dem Rep. Jerrold Nadler of New York will endorse the deal today. That’s a huge get for the deal’s supporters, because he was considered a genuine swing vote:

Mr. Nadler’s decision may help give cover to other Democrats who are still undecided on the Iran agreement. Without his support, backers of the deal would have faced a complete shutout of the Jewish members of New York’s federal delegation, whose views carry considerable weight on issues related to the Mideast and Israel.

With 150 House Dems already on a letter endorsing diplomacy with Iran, Nadler’s support makes it more likely that supporters will have the votes to sustain Obama’s veto in the lower chamber.

Twenty-two House Democrats visiting Israel got an earful from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during their recent visit to the Middle East…Most of the 22 Democrats on the trip remain undecided on that resolution.

Meanwhile, in both chambers the trend has been towards support of the deal.

* O’MALLEY PUSHES PLAN TO EXPAND SOCIAL SECURITY: Today Martin O’Malley is rolling out a new plan to expand Social Security benefits for all recipients, paid for by raising payroll taxes on incomes above $250,000. The plan, which is tied to his push for a $15-per-hour minimum wage, tries to stake out the most progressive position in the Dem primary economic debate.

It again raises the question: Where will Hillary Clinton, who has not endorsed key planks in the Elizabeth Warren wing’s inequality agenda, come down on the left’s push to expand Social Security?

* LATINOS OUTRAGED BY ‘ANCHOR BABY’ RHETORIC: NBC News has an interesting look at how Jeb Bush’s use of the term “anchor babies” is resonating among Latinos. The answer: Not well. Also, note this key context:

It also is resonating in a community that is predominantly Mexican American, with many members of that community not that far removed from decades when they or their parents or grandparents were not treated equally — even though many were U.S. citizens. Even today, many U.S.-born Latinos are told to go back to their country or must assert that they have deep roots in this country.

And GOP Latino outreach continues apace…

* AND POPE FRANCIS TO ADDRESS IMMIGRATION: Roll Call reports that many members of Congress expect Pope Francis to devote high profile attention to the immigration issue when he arrives in Washington next month. He’s expected to call for serious efforts at reform and more tolerance towards undocumented immigrants.

That should make for a nice contrast with the GOP debate currently underway about Republican frontrunner Donald Trump’s views on the issue.