Immigration Update: Our latest on the immigration debate in Congress.
Immigration reform: Senate Republicans on the cusp of buying in? 
Can immigration reform pass? Five senators to watch.
Immigration reform tying House Republicans in knots
Photo: A protester shouts out against the tough enforcement measures in the GOP-proposed Strengthen and Fortify Enforcement Act, as he and others are removed from the audience during the House Judiciary Committee hearing on Capitol Hill on Tuesday. Carolyn Kaster/AP

Immigration Update: Our latest on the immigration debate in Congress.

Immigration reform: Senate Republicans on the cusp of buying in? 

Can immigration reform pass? Five senators to watch.

Immigration reform tying House Republicans in knots

Photo: A protester shouts out against the tough enforcement measures in the GOP-proposed Strengthen and Fortify Enforcement Act, as he and others are removed from the audience during the House Judiciary Committee hearing on Capitol Hill on Tuesday. Carolyn Kaster/AP

Immigration reform: 3 reasons it’s got its best chance yet

Immigration reform has been snarled in partisan gridlock for years. But after losing 7 in 10 Hispanic votes in 2012, not all Republicans – in Congress and on talk radio – are mounting an all-out war on reform legislation.

Immigration reform: When is family reunification also ‘chain migration’?

Marco Rubio, immigration reform, and 2016: the big risk

Photos: (Top left) Demonstrators calling for immigration reform marched to the Minnesota State Capitol on May 1. Jim Mone/AP

(Top right) Sen. Marco Rubio (R) of Florida speaks on an immigration reform legislation April 18, on Capitol Hill in Washington. J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Immigration advocates gather outside the Senate Judiciary Committee room on Capitol Hill in Washington on April 22. J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Rising Republican Stars: Rand Paul and other members of the GOP to watch for in 2016.
Rand Paul rising: Has filibuster made him US political star?
Marco Rubio for president? 14 Republicans who might run next time
Jeb Bush’s book: More than just a flip-flop on illegal immigration
Photos: (From top left)Mike Huckabee, Scott Walker, Paul Ryan, Bobby Jindal, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, Chris Christie, Kelly Ayotte, and Jeb Bush (Photos by Associated Press)

Rising Republican Stars: Rand Paul and other members of the GOP to watch for in 2016.

Rand Paul rising: Has filibuster made him US political star?

Marco Rubio for president? 14 Republicans who might run next time

Jeb Bush’s book: More than just a flip-flop on illegal immigration

Photos: (From top left)Mike HuckabeeScott WalkerPaul RyanBobby JindalRand PaulMarco RubioChris ChristieKelly Ayotte, and Jeb Bush (Photos by Associated Press)

Ryan vs. Rubio: Senator Marco Rubio may be spearheading the GOP’s immigration reform effort, but Rep. Paul Ryan has been the face of the Party’s fiscal policy.

How did each get to where they are? Should they team up? And most, importantly who will run for president? DC Decoder and Politico explain.

Is Paul Ryan losing the GOP’s ‘invisible primary’ to Marco Rubio?

Marco Rubio, Paul Ryan may team up on immigration

Paul Ryan and Marco Rubio’s makeovers

Photos: (Left) Republican vice presidential candidate, Rep. Paul Ryan (R- Wis.) at a campaign rally in August in West Chester, Pa. Photo by Matt Rourke/AP

Florida Senator Marco Rubio addresses the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., in August. Charles Dharapak/AP

A bipartisan group of lawmakers, with the support of a law enforcement agencies, announce the introduction of a bill in the House of Representatives to make firearms trafficking a federal crime and impose stronger penalties for ‘straw purchasers’ who buy guns for convicted felons and others who are prohibited from buying guns on their own. Photo by: J. Scott Applewhite/AP
Politics 101: Your questions answered
Gun debate 101: Doesn’t US already have laws against gun trafficking?
Gun debate 101: Is the AR-15 as popular as the iPod?
Immigration reform 101: Should illegal immigrants be offered citizenship path?

A bipartisan group of lawmakers, with the support of a law enforcement agencies, announce the introduction of a bill in the House of Representatives to make firearms trafficking a federal crime and impose stronger penalties for ‘straw purchasers’ who buy guns for convicted felons and others who are prohibited from buying guns on their own. Photo by: J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Politics 101: Your questions answered

Gun debate 101: Doesn’t US already have laws against gun trafficking?

Gun debate 101: Is the AR-15 as popular as the iPod?

Immigration reform 101: Should illegal immigrants be offered citizenship path?

Debating immigration is good for the GOP - “what hurts is the tone.”

That’s the argument made by former Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.), now the chairman of GOP Super PAC Congressional Leadership Fund.

Speaking at a breakfast hosted by The Christian Science Monitor, Coleman pointed to harsh immigration rhetoric by former Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-Colo.) as an example where the tone of the GOP debate hurt its political prospects, putting a damper on the GOP’s efforts in that state in 2010.

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The Cain Scrutiny: Five ways The Hermantor could be attacked at tonight’s CNN debate

When you’re at the top of the polls - and center stage at tonight’s GOP debate in Las Vegas - chances are you’re going to take some blows. While Herman Cain largely dodged them during last week’s debate, Decoder has an inkling he won’t be so lucky this week.

Here are five potential chinks in The Hermantor’s armor. Once you’ve checked them out, get ready to join us at our live chat during tonight’s debate (kicks off at 8 p.m. ET).

1. Was Cain against “999” before he was for it?

Herman Cain may turn out to be his own worst critic. As Business Insider points out, Cain once wrote an op-ed posted on several conservative sites (like The Daily Caller, here) entitled “Don’t Be VAT Stupid” in which he argues:

The worst idea is a proposed national sales tax, which is a disguised VAT (value added tax) on top of everything we already pay in federal taxes.

Cain’s campaign says this is taken out of context - but in the op-ed, Cain lays out explicitly why a national sales tax, the third “9” in his pantheon, is a terrible idea.

First, we have a spending problem in Washington, D.C., not a revenue problem….

Even worse is reason number two: In every country that has established a VAT with the promise of reducing its national debt, the VAT has eventually gone up or expanded on top of the existing tax structure….

The third reason the national retail sales tax on top of all the taxes we already pay is a bad idea, is that there is already proposed legislation that replaces allof the federal taxes we pay. It replaces all current revenue. It supercharges our national economic growth, and puts the power of taxation back into the hands of the people who spend their money.

It’s called the Fair Tax.

As you learned from Decoder’s “999 plan” explainer, Cain’s ultimate goal remains the Fair Tax. Indeed, in this same op-ed he argues that “a national retail sales tax on top of all the confusing and unfair taxes we have today is insane!” Those three, bolded words (emphasis Decoder’s) may be his saving grace, as his 999 plan would abolish all other taxes.

2. Gay marriage

Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum has already signaled he’ll be going after Cain on 999 - but he’s also ready to hit Cain on gay marriage as well. After Cain told NBC’s Meet the Press on Sunday that gay marriage should be left to the states, Santorum offered this on a talk radio program in Iowa:

“The idea that this issue should be left to the states is the position Barack Obama takes and it’s not the right position.”

Cain’s position struck a (negative) chord among several other conservative leaders, as Jennifer Rubin writes in the Washington Post’s “Right Turn” blog.

3. Is Cain too “shocking” on immigration - or not shocking enough?

As Decoder wrote previously, Cain has waffled on whether a fence along the US border with Mexico rimmed with electrified barbed wire is a good idea or not. Whatever this discussion does to the GOP’s chances with Hispanic voters, Michele Bachmann has already hit Cain from the right for suggesting such a fence would be a joke.

"This is no laughing matter, the border fence," Bachmann said. "We’ve seen jokes made by presidential candidates about the fence. It is not a joke. This is a real issue, and this is a serious issue."

4. Does he know anything about foreign policy?

Cain also discussed foreign policy during his chat with Meet the Press host David Gregory. To put it bluntly, Cain has not impressed many experts with his command of foreign affairs. He typically falls back on “I will ask the ____” where the blank can be generals, intelligence analysts, or other experts. Perhaps an honest position, but as the Washington Post’s Rubin writes, when you mix that in with his inability to formulate his own coherent views about foreign policy, the resulting goo is … well, goo.

Right now Cain is telling us he likes the neoconservative Charles Krauthammer and the conservative critic of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, George Will. He told David Gregory he likes both John Bolton and Henry Kissinger as foreign policy thinkers. (What — he curries favor with the despots only on odd-numbered days?) These pairs of conservatives are polar opposites, of course. It is sort of like picking Justice Antonin Scalia and Ruth Bader Ginsburg as your favorite Supreme Court justices — it suggests a lack of understanding of the diametrically opposed views they present. More to the point, it raises doubt as to how Cain could make national security decisions with no vision of his own or familiarity with the issues.

5. Is Cain a serious contender?

Rick Santorum and Michele Bachmann have practically become Iowa residents. Jon Huntsman is boycotting the Nevada debate in an attempt to score points with New Hampshire. Rick Perry’s political DNA is about retail politics. Any of them could go after Cain for eschewing the early primary states as he continues on his book tour (he hasn’t been to Iowa since August) in hopes that voters in those states will remember how much time they’ve lavished on early primary contests. 

Watch the top Republican candidates face off in the CNN Western Republican Presidential debate LIVE from Vegas! Tuesday night at 8ET on CNN. (Sponsored message.)

Photo: Eric Thayer/Reuters

Could Herman Cain short-circuit GOP’s chances with Hispanics?

Whether or not Herman Cain becomes the Republican Party nominee, he may already be undercutting his party’s chances in the general election when it comes to winning over one key voting bloc: Hispanics.

Cain’s controversial comments about building a fence along the Mexican border with “electrified barbed wire” along the top may reinforce an image of the GOP as callous and anti-immigrant - just when the party was hoping to make real inroads among Hispanic voters.

The unemployment rate among Hispanics nationwide is currently at 11.3 percent, more than two points higher than the national average. Those numbers are even worse in key swing states like Florida, New Mexico, and Nevada - where the Hispanic population has surged. Polls show that President Obama’s approval rating among Hispanics, which hit a high of 82 percent in early 2009, is now at just 49 percent. 

But any hopes Republicans had of capitalizing on all this may be quickly evaporating as the spotlight continues to shine on Cain. At an event in Arizona yesterday with Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio - who has become the face of that state’s controversial immigration-enforcement law - Cain both apologized for and then seemed to double down on his “electric fence” idea.

"It was a joke!" Cain told reporters, adding:

"It’s probably not a joke that you’re supposed to make if you’re a presidential candidate. I apologize if it offended anyone. Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea culpa!” But Cain then went on to say: “I don’t apologize for using a combination of a fence and it might be electrified. I’m not walking away from that.”

Think all this will come up at tonight’s CNN debate, which is held in Nevada - a critical swing state that is 26 percent Hispanic?

Significantly, none of Cain’s opponents have condemned his remarks. Michele Bachmann did attack Cain yesterday - not for advocating an electrified fence, but for joking about the issue.

"This is no laughing matter, the border fence," Bachmann said. "We’ve seen jokes made by presidential candidates about the fence. It is not a joke. This is a real issue, and this is a serious issue."

So the message to Latino/a voters is: next time you talk about an electric border fence that could kill people trying to enter this country illegally, you’d better be serious?

This all comes, of course, after last month’s back-and-forth over Rick Perry’s stance on immigration. The Texas governor was attacked by his opponents for having signed a bill allowing children of illegal immigrants to pay in-state college tuition. In a debate, Perry argued that his critics had no “heart” - a comment he quickly came to regret, as he later found himself heckled by anti-illegal-immigration protesters at campaign events. (Perry eventually apologized.)

The bottom line: If there was any question about whether the GOP primary electorate had softened its stance on illegal immigration, this campaign is quickly clearing that up. That sound you hear is Karl Rove (and other Republican strategists with their eyes on the party’s long-term demographics) banging their heads as they watch the GOP’s chances of winning the Hispanic vote circling the drain…

Watch the top Republican candidates face off in the CNN Western Republican Presidential debate LIVE from Vegas! Tuesday night at 8ET on CNN. (Sponsored message.)

Want more?

  • Check out the GOP’s formal Hispanic outreach outfit here.
  • Read this column by former GOP presidential candidate Pat Buchanan about “the end of white America” - and how projections that whites will become a minority by 2041 will mean “the end of a national Republican Party that routinely gets 90 percent of its presidential votes from white America” (Buchanan doesn’t see this as a good thing).
  • Watch Republican Super PAC (and Karl Rove creation) American Crossroads’ Spanish-language advertisement “Despertarse,” or “Wake Up,” below.

 

HERMAN CAIN’S BIG APPLAUSE LINE: LET’S ELECTROCUTE THE ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS!

On NBC’s Meet The Press today, Herman Cain said he had been joking when he called for a fence along the Mexican border with “electrified barbed wire” that could kill people trying to enter the country illegally.  He added: “America needs to get a sense of humor.”  

But The New York Times, which reported on Cain making those comments during campaign stops over the weekend in Tennessee, didn’t see Cain’s comments in the same light at all, writing that they had not been presented as a joke, but as “serious commentary” that drew “cheers,” rather than laughter, from the audience. 

Cain has in fact been making this “joke” - whether you see it that way or not - on the stump for some time. This video was taken last May, in Council Bluffs, Iowa.

Watch it for yourself. Here’s the text of Cain’s remarks:

"We’ve got to secure the border. Truly secure it. I had a caller one night call in: ‘Mr. Cain, you conservatives have got to stop this talk about building a fence.’ I said, Why? ‘You know that is impractical.’ Oh really? I think I had just got back from China, and I went to the Great Wall of China. They built a wall; I think with today’s technology we can build a fence. And if they were to put me in charge of the fence, I know we’d build a fence. Somebody asked me, well, what kind of fence would you build? I tell you, it would be a combination of technology and a real fence. It would be about 20 feet high. It would have electrified barbed wire on the top. And on this side of it, it would have a moat the depth of a football field.  And yes, Mr. President, it would have alligators in it.”

Decoder yaks it up with The McLaughlin Group

One of your DC Decoder scribes, Liz Marlantes, made an appearance on last week’s episode of the McLaughlin Group. Watch Liz in action at the video below talking about the killing of Anwar al-Awlaki, Rick Perry’s immigration problem, and her (eventually) correct prediction that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie would not throw his hat into the presidential ring.

Have a happy Columbus Day weekend.

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