The GOP's new plan: Hit Dems from the left

On Social Security and now immigration, House GOPers are trying (and failing) to sneak up on Democrats' left flank

Published April 23, 2013 7:38PM (EDT)

Mike Coffman        (AP/Ed Andrieski)
Mike Coffman (AP/Ed Andrieski)

Earlier this month, while progressive groups were slamming President Obama from the left on his decision to include a cut to Social Security benefits in his budget, the man responsible for getting Republicans elected to Congress .. .also hit Obama from the left. The move was surprising, considering that the vast majority of Republicans disagreed with Rep. Greg Walden, the chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, and John Boehner even said said so publicly.

Walden's move was understandable, though. He's in a bit of a predicament: On one hand, Republicans want to reform (i.e., cut) entitlement programs, but on the other, Walden needs to get Republicans elected to Congress and the public hates the idea of cutting Social Security. What's an NRCC chairman to do? Go with the poll numbers, and forget your party, apparently.

So now, the NRCC is trying the trick again, but this time on immigration -- another issue where hard-liners in the GOP are out of step with the public. A website the committee set up to attack Colorado Democrat Andrew Romanoff jabs him for "lik[ing] to waste taxpayer dollars almost as much as he likes the strictest immigration laws in the nation he passed as Speaker of the Colorado House."

Indeed, Romanoff helped pass "several bills that Democrats call the toughest in the nation," as the AP reported at the time. But the NRCC hit runs into trouble once you finish reading that sentence from the AP: "... and Republicans say don't go far enough." Even though the state's Republican governor signed the bill, "Republicans said the legislation still left glaring loopholes, including allowing benefits for minors." And this was 2006, long before Arizona's SB-1070 and its copycat laws in Alabama, South Carolina and elsewhere. Since then, the GOP moved further to the right on immigration while Romanoff moved left, even earning jabs for flip-flopping.

And if the NRCC is attacking Romanoff for being too conservative on immigration, their guy is presumably more liberal on this issue, right? As it turns out, Rep. Mike Coffman, current occupant of the suburban-Denver seat, is no Marco Rubio.

Coffman (perhaps best known for a 2012 birther rant, for which he later apologized) co-sponsored a bill to repeal birthright citizenship; once said "The Dream Act will be a nightmare for the American people"; signed an amicus brief supporting Arizona's SB-1070 law; and wanted to pass a law making all ballots English only.

In February, he backtracked on his opposition to the DREAM Act as his party was preparing to play ball on immigration reform, but he still said he hadn't made up his mind about legal status for adults.

Again, it's understandable why the NRCC would want to try to use Romanoff's out-of-date position against him, considering that as many as 70 percent of Americans favor a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, but when your party and candidate are well to the right of the guy you're attacking, it's impossible to outflank him from the left and mean it.

By Alex Seitz-Wald

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