A senior political analyst said Monday that intramural Republican politics, and not the Republican Party's need for national appeal, is driving the GOP's approach to immigration reform.
"Whether you're a conservative in Arizona or a moderate in Wisconsin," said Ken Rudin, known to NPR listeners as the Political Junkie, "what you're hearing is that if you vote for this so-called amnesty bill — and that's what conservatives are calling this — you'll be hit with a primary challenge in 2014."
In the first in a series of occasional appearances on The Daily Circuit, Rudin addressed the immigration bill passed last month by the Senate and the chances for passage of a similar measure in the House. Despite its large margin of victory, the Senate bill remains controversial among many conservatives because it lays out a process for immigrants who lack legal status to seek citizenship.
Political observers have suggested that immigration is a key issue for the GOP in light of the party's dismal record with Latino voters.
"The establishment is very aware of what happened with Mitt Romney and the Republicans in 2012," Rudin said. "President Obama got 71 percent of the Latino vote in 2012, and they don't want this to be repeated."
But even more compelling than that memory, Rudin said, is the vulnerability of House Republicans who have strayed from the conservative line.
"It's not the specter of Mitt Romney that the House Republicans are thinking of," he said. "It's the specter of Republicans who have tried to work out a compromise on any number of issues and find that there's a conservative challenger waiting in the wings in the primaries. And they're afraid to risk that."
LEARN MORE ABOUT KEN RUDIN, THE POLITICAL JUNKIE:
• A farewell to the political junkie (Rudin's last appearance on Talk of the Nation)
• Political Junkie on NPR Ken Rudin's NPR blog