Andrea Mitchell said it was "a great irony, a sad irony, for John McCain" that Hispanic voters are "shifting to Barack Obama" even though McCain "lost his Republican base ... partly on supporting immigration reform." But Mitchell did not note that McCain reversed his position on immigration reform, aligning himself more closely with the GOP base, or that McCain stated that he would not support his own reform bill if it came up for a vote in the Senate.
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During the November 3 edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe, NBC chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell said that among the "underreported things we've been talking among ourselves about that we have not paid enough attention to is this dramatic shift in the Hispanic vote." She went on to assert that "it is really a great irony, a sad irony, for [Sen.] John McCain if it turns out this way because he was such an early supporter. He lost his Republican base ... partly on supporting immigration reform. And that endeared him to so many Hispanic voters, and now they are shifting to Barack Obama." However, Mitchell did not note that McCain reversed his position on immigration reform, aligning himself more closely with the GOP base. McCain abandoned his support for the immigration bill he co-sponsored with Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA), saying, during CNN's January 30 Republican presidential primary debate, that he would no longer vote for it if it came up for a vote in the Senate. During the debate, Los Angeles Times staff writer Janet Hook asked McCain, "At this point, if your original proposal came to a vote on the Senate floor, would you vote for it?" McCain responded: "No, I would not, because we know what the situation is today. The people want the borders secured first."
As Media Matters for America has repeatedly noted, McCain's position that "we've got to secure the borders first" is at odds with his prior assertion that border security could not be disaggregated from other aspects of comprehensive immigration reform without being rendered ineffective.
In a June 20 Politico article, journalist Gebe Martinez reported on McCain's reversal on immigration:
McCain, the Arizona senator, dismayed Latinos last year when he stepped back from his immigration bill that would have tightened the borders and legalized undocumented immigrants. As boos and hisses from angry Republican conservatives grew louder at campaign events, he switched course and vowed to "first" secure the borders. Were his failed bill to come up again, he would not vote for it, he said.
Trying to regain Latino support, McCain has chastised Republicans who stoke the fires of the immigration at election time. And at a private meeting with Chicago-area Latinos last week, he promised to push for a comprehensive immigration bill.
"It sounds like he's trying to have it both ways, and it's not convincing anyone," said Frank Sharry, who also was involved in immigration bill negotiations when he headed the National Immigration Forum.
This is not the McCain Hispanics thought they knew. Even after the 2001 terrorist attacks placed an emphasis on national security, McCain's speeches to Latino audiences and on the Senate floor prioritized the compassionate side of the immigration argument.
He understood that border security "first" means "deportation only" in the eyes of immigrant activists, and he championed a broader approach.
As the Senate mulled immigration in 2006, McCain often stood in the Capitol's corridors, pounding his fist in the air, arguing that border enforcement would not work without simultaneously penalizing employers who hire workers illegally, creating a temporary worker program and finding a way to bring 12 million illegal immigrants "out of the shadows" of society.
"It won't work! It won't work!" he protested of suggestions to do enforcement first. The stool cannot stand on one leg.
From the November 3 edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe:
MITCHELL: One of the other under -- underreported things we've been talking among ourselves about that we have not paid enough attention to is this dramatic shift in the Hispanic vote.
MIKA BRZEZINSKI (co-host): Mmm-hmm. Absolutely.
MITCHELL: What I think you're gonna likely see is -- and it is really a great irony, a sad irony, for John McCain --
MITCHELL: -- if it turns out this way, because he was such an early supporter. He lost his Republican base partly -- partly on, of course, campaign finance reform, but partly on supporting immigration reform. And that endeared him to so many Hispanic voters, and now they are shifting to Barack Obama.
BRZEZINSKI: It doesn't appear to be panning out for him.
CHUCK TODD (NBC News political director): Obama has -- Obama has a three-legged stool of young new voters, African-Americans, and Hispanics --
TODD: -- and he's winning 'em all overwhelmingly -- three, two to one, two-and-a-half to one. You put that together, you talked about the evangelical advantage that Bush had in '04, it created this buffer --
TODD: -- it created a padding that he had so that he, he could lose swing voters. That's what's going on with Obama. He can lose some voters in the middle if they're race-sensitive, because he's got this incredibly strong three-legged stool of support -- of base support -- that I don't know, that McCain does not have the equivalent of.