Even As Democrats Stand Against Public Opinion, Times Sees GOP Jeopardy Over AZ Law

The front page of Saturday's New York Times screamed how "Arizona Law Reveals Split Within GOP." Fair enough. But the Democrats are ostensibly in worse shape, having publicly and visibly denounced (with the President of Mexico) a popular law that nearly two-thirds of Americans support.
A front-page story in Saturday's New York Times touted how: "Arizona Law Reveals Split Within G.O.P." All but one paragraph of the 30-paragraph report by Jennifer Steinhauer described the dilemma for Republicans torn between popular sentiment in favor of Arizona's pro-enforcement stance, and the need to not alienate Hispanic voters.

Fair enough. But the Democrats are ostensibly in worse shape, having publicly and visibly denounced (with the President of Mexico) a popular law that 64% of Americans support, according to an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.

But the Times casts the GOP as stymied by the "delicacy of the issue," even going so far as to seek wisdom from Karl Rove (not a Times favorite), identified with the soft-line approach that helped erode President Bush's popularity among conservatives a few years ago:

"I think we need to be very careful about immigration," said Karl Rove, the former adviser to President George W. Bush. "I applaud Arizona for taking action, but I think the rhetoric on all sides ought to be lowered."

Mr. Rove and other strategists who worked for Mr. Bush were proponents of an immigration overhaul that included a path to legal status.

Not until the 17th paragraph is there an admission that Democrats, too, have a problem - and that is the amnesty demands of their far-left wing, not their flamboyant rejection of border enforcement.

Democrats have their own problems with the issue. Some more left-leaning factions of the party prefer an amnesty approach to an overhaul.

But the divisions appear more acute among Republicans, some of whom fear that the party will become identified with punitive immigration laws at a time when Hispanics are a growing part of the electorate - particularly in emergent battleground states like Colorado and Nevada.

Well, you get the picture. Here's a little more of the Times piece, starting with the lede:

Republican lawmakers and candidates are increasingly divided over illegal immigration - torn between the need to attract Latino support, especially at the ballot box, and rallying party members who support tougher action.

Arizona's new measure, which requires that the police check the documents of anyone they stop or detain whom they suspect of being in the country illegally, has forced politicians far and wide to take a stance. But unlike in Washington, where a general consensus exists among establishment Republicans, the fault lines in the states - where the issue is even more visceral and immediate - are not predictable.

Conservative Republican governors like Jim Gibbons of Nevada, Robert F. McDonnell of Virginia and Rick Perry of Texas have criticized the Arizona law. But some more moderate Republicans, like Tom Campbell, who is running in the party's Senate primary in California, have supported it....

In states with hotly contested elections, several Republican candidates are finding their positions mobile, reflecting the delicacy of the issue and a growing body of polls that suggest many voters support the Arizona law.

In Florida, for instance, Attorney General Bill McCollum, who is running for governor, now says he approves of the law, though he called it "far out" two weeks ago; Marco Rubio, the state's Republican Senate nominee, has also shifted his stance.

State Republicans now find themselves in a balancing act, trying to seize a moment of Congressional stalemate to demonstrate leadership while not repelling voters on either side of the debate, a challenge that is particularly daunting for those in a primary fight....

"People like Perry and McDonnell and others realize this is a very divisive issue for our party," said Linda Chavez, the Republican chairwoman of the Center for Equal Opportunity, a conservative research organization, referring to the governors of Texas and Virginia. "The fact is, you can't secure the borders if you don't fix immigration, because the two go hand in hand."

-Rich Noyes is Research Director at the Media Research Center. You can follow him on Twitter here.