by Domenic Powell
Much to the chagrin of the anti-immigrant movement, Newt Gingrich has continued to move ahead of his competitors for the Republican presidential nomination who have positioned themselves to the right of him on immigration.
Gingrich faced serious backlash from anti-immigrant groups after he argued for a “humane” approach to the 11 million people residing in the United States without a valid visa—some of whom hinted that the stance was the end of his run.
The Guardian, for example, quoted Ryan Rhodes, a Tea Party leader in Iowa, as saying: “I think he will take a hit […] I think that is an issue where he parts company with conservatives.”
A blogger for the Youth for Western Civilization hypothesized that “If Gingrich fades like Perry under scrutiny of his immigration record, Bachmann could reemerge as the logical alternative to Mitt Romney.”
On Facebook, William Gheen of ALIPAC claimed that “Gingrich is not going up in polls. All the newspaper articles are citing polls that were conducted before his comments in the last debates.”
Armed with fresh polls, though, the Gingrich campaign can now say that its rise has continued despite his immigration heterodoxy. Nor has Bachmann risen to be the party’s anti-immigrant savior, trailing in every poll in or near the single digits. According to the poll conducted by The Hill, for example, right-of-center voters pick Gingrich overwhelmingly over Romney, as well.
ALIPAC, which has practically endorsed Bachmann in the negative, even chided its own members who’ve decided that Gingrich is the best candidate: “…[W]e are having to take issue with different politicians like Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich of whom some of our members have decided to support.”
If the anti-immigrant base thought that now was the time to pounce on Gingrich, they should have done their homework. Gingrich has been a long-time advocate for Hispanic outreach in the conservative movement, even launching The Americano, a bilingual news site out of his publishing company, Gingrich Communications.
As the internal debate over immigration within the conservative movement plays out, it has failed to become the litmus test that anti-immigrant groups have hoped to make it. With Latinos poised to play a bigger role than ever before in the next election, the hard-line position is quickly turning acidic within the Republican Party.