The Spectacle Blog

Christie Doesn’t Want to “Demagogue” The Immigration Issue

By on 6.30.10 | 10:48AM

Earlier this month, I dismissed chatter of a Chris Christie presidential candidacy in 2012 as implausible, arguing that it was far too early into his term as governor of New Jersey for such talk. But in this Politico interview, Christie reminds us of another barrier he'll have to winning the Republican nomination. Although Christie has won praise among conservatives for his heroic budget battles, willingness to confront the unions, and no-nonsense style, as governor of a blue state, he's going to have to take positions on some issues that will put him at odds with the more conservative presidential primary electorate. We saw this with Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney in 2008. 

In the Politico interview, Christie speaks of rebranding the Republican Party, and one of the issues he mentions is immigration:

On the hot-button topic of immigration reform, he said he has long declined to “demagogue” the issue as a former U.S. Attorney, because “I come from law enforcement and it’s not an easy issue.”

But he did intimate that he thinks stringent state-by-state laws – such as in Arizona – are the wrong approach, and added, “I think President Obama doesn’t do this at his own risk because it’s affecting the economy in the country…to me, I think the president’s really gotta show the leadership on this.”

“This is a federal problem, it’s gotta have a federal fix,” he said. “I’m not really comfortable with state law enforcement having a big role.” 

He said that without border security, enforcement of existing laws and a “clear” path to legalization for immigrants, there would never be a fix.

In practice, his preferred policy on immigration, which involves a path to citizenship, would likely put him to the left of where the primary electorate is. In the case of John McCain, the issue badly damaged him but did not prove fatal to his wining the GOP nomination. But it's just another reminder of the obstacles any blue state Republican would face in a presidential primary.
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