That AZ Debate: Why GOP Consultants (Still) Prefer Tax Cuts To Immigration Cuts
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NumbersUSA's Roy Beck gives a good, characteristically chirpy, account of last night's GOP Presdential candidates' debate in Arizona here. He is pleased that Romney and Gingrich both took care to put markers down indicating their opposition to illegal immigration, and that Romney endorsed Arizona's SB1070 and its use of E-verify. This, of course, would be a wonderful issue to use against Obama in the fall.

Roy might also have noted that CNN moderator John King actually used the term "self-deportation" in asking a question. This basic immigration patriot concept was greeted with dumbfounded incredulity when Romney introduced it in an earlier debate, so this progress is an example of the debates' very real educational function.

And of course it is indeed a good thing that the candidates now obviously respect and fear the immigration issue. But they still refuse to mention legal immigration—despite record unemployment and displacement. Santorum, who some time ago got Beck really chirping by raising legal immigration on the stump, not only failed to use it in the debate, again, but disassociated himself from the federal E-verify bill's very moderate approach to illegal domestic labor. This refusal, frankly, is a devastating reproach to the leadership of the patriotic immigration reform movement.

But it also says something about the deeply unimaginative and formulaic approach of professional campaign consultants. Yesterday, both Obama and Romney released competing proposals to cut marginal federal income tax rates. This was an explosive issue thirty years ago, when the current generation of consultants learned their trade. But, Ed Rubenstein and I argued yesterday on MarketWatch, it's just less pressing today—because, since the elimination of bracket creep through indexation, marginal tax rates for most Americans have been stable and relatively low.

(I usually keep my political and financial journalism apart, because diversity-loving enemies of the former are, in their tolerant liberal way,  always trying to get me fired from the latter. But I can't resist here).

To reuse my favorite Dick Morris quote, Republican campaign consultants

have no other game plan, no other way to win. If you come around behind them or alongside and don’t raise taxes, if you’re tough on crime and want to reform welfare, use the military effectively, and cut spending, they can’t hit you. A tank can rotate its turret—a Republican can’t

 They may be learning slowly because of this season's debates. But not quickly enough.


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