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Why the GOP needs to do immigration reform — now

The Republican Party is beginning to succumb to the demographic reality that confronts it: Just as Latino voters are deserting the GOP in near-record numbers, the Latino vote is quickly becoming hugely important to winning elections.

So it's no surprise that Republicans now sound keen on doing comprehensive immigration reform; they need a healthy share of Latino votes going forward, and they're not getting it.

But when it comes to Republicans and immigration reform, it isn't so much that the GOP needs to do it, as much as that it can't afford not to be a part of it.

We know those two statements sound like the same thing (and that our English teachers failed to teach us the perils of double negatives), but they're not.

The former statement doesn't assume that immigration reform gets done; the latter assumes that it does. And more and more, it looks like the American public is ready for immigration reform.

While many have focused since Election Day on the Latino vote, few have focused on attitudes toward immigration. Exit polls conducted on Election Day showed nearly two-thirds of voters supported a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants, while a more recent Washington Post-ABC News poll showed that number at 57 percent -- up from 49 percent in 2007, the last time there was a big push for immigration reform.

Regardless of which number is more accurate, it's clear that there's a growing consensus around the idea of a path to citizenship, and thus, it's reasonable to assume (though far from certain) that some kind of immigration reform will get done in the relatively near future.

Republicans, of course, still control the House and can still block bills in the Senate via filibuster. But at some point, if a path to citizenship is popular enough, Democrats may be able to pick off enough GOP votes to pass something -- or they may gain control of both chambers completely.

The question from there is whether Republicans are viewed as participants or obstructors. If reform does get done, and the vast majority of the GOP didn't take part, you can bet it will only exacerbate the party's problem with Latinos.

We saw in the 2012 election what happens when it looks like the GOP is standing in the way of immigration reform. President Obama reaped huge benefits from his executive order preventing the deportation of young illegal immigrants, while Republicans stood by and debated whether it was a good idea.

The stakes are big and growing quickly.

According to a Pew Hispanic Center survey released Wednesday, while there are currently 24 million eligible Latino voters, there will be 40 million by 2030, thanks in large part to the 17.6 million Latinos under 18 years of age (93 percent of which are U.S.-born and will be eligible to vote).

But that 40 million figure doesn't include illegal immigrants and permanent legal residents, which number 7.1 million and 5.4 million, respectively.

And if there is a path to citizenship for these immigrants, it will only increase the already fast-rising clout of the Latino vote, which could be twice as big as it is now by 2030, according to Pew. What's more, it's hard to see former illegal immigrants and permanent residents voting against the party that gave them a path to citizenship.

Immigration, of course, isn't the only issue that matters to Latino voters -- and too often coverage of them suggests it is -- but it is an issue which is very important to a very large portion of these voters.

And if immigration reform gets done without the GOP being on board, whether in this Congress or in the near future, it will be even worse for Republicans than 2012 was. Whatever problems they have with Latinos now, they will pale to the day when the GOP is matched up against a Democratic Party that successfully passed immigration reform without much or any Republican involvement.

And the 44-point advantage that Obama enjoyed among Latinos last week might be a footnote rather than a high note.

Romney said Obama won thanks to 'gifts' to voter blocs: In a call with donors on Wednesday, Mitt Romney said Obama won the election because he gave "gifts" to different groups, including young voters, Latinos, African-Americans and women.

Romney said Obama used the "old playbook" of directing specific official policies to “especially the African-American community, the Hispanic community and young people," according to a New York Times report.

He cited Obama's health care law, which mandates universal care and allows children to be on their parents' plans longer, Obama's decision to stop the deportation of young illegal immigrants, Obama's plan for partial forgiveness of college loan interest and Obama forcing health care providers to cover contraception.

Other Republicans quickly denounced the comments, including Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who were gather in Las Vegas for a meeting of the Republican Governors Association.

“We have got to stop dividing American voters," Jindal said. "I absolutely reject that notion, that description. ... We’re fighting for 100 percent of the vote."

This won't help the GOP's efforts to win over minority voters, especially given Romney's past "47 percent" comments. And the fact that Jindal and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) so quickly denounced Romney suggests party heavyweights are ready for the Romney chapter to be over.


Immigration hard-liner Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) says Republicans don't, in fact, need to move on immigration reform.

Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) delivers his farewell speech. He's retiring from Congress.

Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) for some reason nominated Newt Gingrich for speaker on Wednesday.


"In first post-election news conference, Obama lays out second term" -- Scott Wilson, Washington Post

"Walden Wears Eagle-Scout Sash Like His GOP Mentor" -- Joshua Miller, Roll Call

"Obama campaign took unorthodox approach to ad buying" -- T.W. Farnam, Washington Post

"Veteran F.B.I. Agent Helped Start Petraeus E-Mail Inquiry" -- Michael S. Schmidt, Scott Shane and Alain Delaqueriere