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11/14/2012 9:10:00 AM Column: Bad storm cost Romney
Tom Collins NT Senior Writer
Need another reason why Mitt Romney lost? Hurricane Katrina might have had something to do with it. A small item caught my eye last week on Yahoo! News. The service reported that Hispanics backed Barack Obama over Romney 3-1 in the 2012 election. The author’s conclusion was that Republicans lost any shot at winning the emerging Latino bloc with a tough immigration policy that appeased the party’s right wing, but alienated Hispanics. For the GOP to reverse that, the author wrote, “the starting point would be comprehensive immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship for undocumented residents, a move that could at least chip away at Democrats’ increasing strength with (Latinos).” That’s going to take some doing. And unfortunately for Romney, rallying Republicans around immigration reform in 2012 was not going to happen; the time for the GOP to reform immigration had already come and gone. That window was opened, and closed, under the administration of George W. Bush. A quick recap: After being sworn in again in 2005, Bush started working on a major immigration overhaul and sought votes from both parties. It might have worked, too. Just as only Nixon could have forged ties with communist China, the former Texas governor alone had the support of both right-wingers and Hispanics to tackle immigration reform without seeming to favor one camp over the other. The timing seemed right, as well. Democrats and Republicans then recognized the need to revamp the Immigration and Naturalization Service and could have approached something close to a consensus. No resulting package would have satisfied everyone; but even I, never a fan of Dubya, could get behind the proposal that included: - Increased border security - Creation of a temporary worker program, subject to background checks - Biometric identification to keep both immigrants and their employers honest - No amnesty, but also no mass deportation, for illegal immigrants already in the U.S.A “We are a nation of laws, and we must enforce our laws,” Bush said at the time. “We’re also a nation of immigrants, and we must uphold that tradition, which has strengthened our country in so many ways. These are not contradictory goals. America can be a lawful society and a welcoming society at the same time. We will fix the problems created by illegal immigration, and we will deliver a system that is secure, orderly, and fair.” It was an admirable goal. It would not be easily reached, but it seemed attainable. Then Katrina happened. Over a very bad month in August 2005, New Orleans was rendered into a fetid swimming pool and the federal response to the emergency was widely (and fairly) derided. With Democrats now in no rush to restore Bush his political muscle — and with some in the GOP dead set against reform, anyway — reform soon died. Then the Tea Party came along. Moderates on immigration found it necessary to do the Texas two-step toward the right. Now, there was no middle position to be had on immigration within the Republican Party — and no chance to win Latinos on a core issue. It was a great failure of the Bush presidency that immigration reform could not be achieved in that span. But it was Mitt Romney who paid the price for that failure.