Chuck Todd: Cantor’s Defeat Proves Immigration ‘Will Absolutely Tear the Republican Party Apart’

In the aftermath of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s shocking defeat Tuesday night to economics professor Dave Brat, the folks at Morning Joe discussed what this would mean for the Republican Party going forward. Chuck Todd, host of the Daily Rundown, suggested that immigration is an issue that consistently divides the right: “how much more evidence do we need that immigration will absolutely tear the Republican Party apart whenever they're dealing with it as an issue inside their party?

Morning Joe host Joe Scarborough hinted that the real issue when it comes to immigration  is the lack of leadership from the Republican Party: “They're going to have to have a strong leader that knows how to articulate the vision, and why we need comprehensive immigration reform.” [MP3 audio here; video below]

Todd insinuated that the dilemma for the Republican Party lies in the fact that many on the right have an extreme view of what amnesty really is. He argued, “But, Joe, if the definition of amnesty is some day, somebody who got here illegally could some day in 20 years become a citizen, if that is the definition of amnesty inside the Republican Party and the base, how do you do it?”

Scarborough did make an important point in noting why many on the right are fearful of ‘comprehensive’ immigration reform. He pointed back to Ronald Reagan’s immigration reform in 1986:

I can show you a poll that shows that the majority of Tea Party Americans also want immigration reform. But they want to make sure that it's not going to be this massive comprehensive bill that is going to end up granting the sort of amnesty that Ronald Reagan allowed in the 1980s. They want it to be smart. They want it to be measured.

The relevant portion of the transcript is below:

MSNBC
Morning Joe
June 11, 2014
7:33 a.m. Eastern

MIKE BARNICLE, MSNBC contributor: Chuck Todd, let me ask you something, what does this do to the Google political map for potential Republican candidates for President?

CHUCK TODD, host of the Daily Rundown: Well, I think it just–look, if you're Jeb Bush this morning and you're thinking about running, you realize–I mean–and if you need more proof on the immigration issue. I just, look, I don't see how Republicans, I think they've run away from the immigration issue. I think they're very nervous. By the way, I think this Cantor defeat could re-energize some to target Lamar Alexander who has got an August primary. Pat Roberts, two senators with August primaries. And we've written off their challengers as sort of underfunded, doesn’t really have anything. But, boy, you can watch particularly, I go back to rural and southern parts of this country on the immigration issue, so I don’t buy–look, we've seen immigration almost destroy John McCain's candidacy. Arguably it did, but he revived it because nobody else could fill the gap back in '08. We saw immigration basically end Rick Perry. It's how Romney survived a conservative challenge. I mean, you know, how much more evidence do we need that immigration will absolutely tear the Republican Party apart whenever they're dealing with it as an issue inside their party.

JOE SCARBOROUGH, host: Alright. It happens. They're going to have to have a strong leader that knows how to articulate the vision, and why we need comprehensive immigration reform. We have a lot of Republicans out there. You look at the polls. There are a lot of Republicans out there that actually believe we need immigration reform but my gosh–  

TODD: But, Joe, if the definition of amnesty is some day, somebody who got here illegally could some day in 20 years become a citizen, if that is the definition of amnesty inside the Republican Party and the base, how do you do it?

XAVIER BECERRA, Congressman (D-Calif.): Chuck, that’s the trap.

SCARBOROUGH: Well, Chuck, I do not think, and I may be standing alone here. But I do not think that's what last night’s results said. I think that last night–

BECERRA: You’re not standing alone.

SCARBOROUGH: What was that?

XAVIER BECERRA: You’re not standing alone. It's a trap to believe that you can do nothing and get away with it. There are right now in the House of Representatives, there are a majority of votes to pass immigration reform because we know there are Republicans, as Joe just said, that are willing to vote for this. Look, the longer they let this simmer, the worse it gets within their party. But please don't equate the Tea Party Republicans with Americans. That's a different–it's a different animal.

SCARBOROUGH: Well, there are–I can show you a poll that shows that the majority of Tea Party Americans also want immigration reform. But they want to make sure that it's not going to be this massive comprehensive bill that is going to end up granting the sort of amnesty that Ronald Reagan allowed in the 1980s. They want it to be smart. They want it to be measured. They want it to be just. They want it to be compassionate. And right now, there's not a Republican leader that has expressed what this bill really is going to do. And I will tell you, Congressman, it's my belief that if Eric Cantor had held 100 town hall meetings in his district and he said this is the immigration bill that I'm supporting, or that I'm thinking about putting together, better yet, is going to do. And what it's going to mean not only for Virginia's 7th but what it’s gonna mean for the state of Virginia and America. If he had given his own people face time, they would have trusted him, they would have gone with him. And anybody out there that sits talking into a microphone or typing on to a laptop that doesn't think that's the case, that underestimates the American people, you just haven't actually done what I've done. You haven't actually done what the Congressman's done. It's easy for you to talk and yammer. But trust the American people. And I'm not saying that you have to support one form of immigration reform or another. I'm just saying, Congressman, if Eric believed in it, he could have talked to his people and explained it. And he didn't, he was holding fund-raisers at Starbucks on the day of his election in Washington, D.C.

Connor Williams
Connor Williams
Connor Williams is a contributing writer for NewsBusters.