Florida Republicans Move to the Right on Immigration

Created: August 13, 2010 10:35 | Last updated: July 31, 2020 00:00

After Florida Attorney General and gubernatorial candidate Bill McCollum proposed Arizona-style immigration legislation, his primary opponent argued he proposed the bill as a political stunt. New polling data indicates that McCollum’s new tough-on-immigration stance may be winning voters: Two polls this week indicate McCollum is in the lead for the Republican nomination for governor.

Of course, it’s impossible to know what exactly changed the tide for McCollum. But his tougher immigration stance has won him media attention in the past few days. Frum Forum reported McCollum’s push to the right on immigration could harm the GOP’s image in Florida:

To virtually anyone following the race, McCollum’s move will be seen through a political prism. Dan Smith, a Professor of Political Science at the University of Florida, told FrumForum that the timing of McCollum’s announcement “smacks of political opportunism.”

Professor Smith observed that immigration generally falls behind issues like jobs and the economy in terms of importance to voters, and by picking a fight with Scott on immigration, McCollum may be ensuring that whichever candidate emerges from the primary the nominee will come out as damaged goods. “The Republican Party in Florida’s elder statesman, former Governor Jeb Bush, has consistently asserted that the Republican party cannot be a big tent party in Florida while being perceived as hostile to the Hispanic community and that is precisely the sort of perception that McCollum’s proposal will promote… this could very well hurt the Republican party in Florida come the general election” said Smith.

At least one other Republican candidate in Florida, state legislature primary candidate Marg Baker, is also seeking to win voters by speaking out against illegal immigration. Baker told Salon yesterday illegal immigrants should be arrested and sent to internment-style “camps.”

For his part, Republican Senate candidate Marco Rubio declined to give a firm opinion on McCollum’s proposed law, his spokesman told Politico:

“He believes the best approach is for the federal government to deal with border security and immigration, and he hopes state efforts like Arizona are a wake-up call for Congress to get its act together,” Burgos said of Rubio. “He thinks it’s a step in the right direction for Congress to return to address border security in the upcoming vote.”