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Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Americans for a Conservative Direction — a pro-immigration reform group led by “establishment” Republicans — has released a new ad backing the “Gang of Eight” immigration bill, as Senate Republicans appear increasingly optimistic that reform can move through Congress.

The ad, titled “Today,” features Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) claiming that the bill “puts in place the toughest enforcement measures in the history of the United States, potentially in the world,” as part of a pitch that positions the immigration reform bill as a conservative plan that will crack down on those who break the law.

“Stand with Marco Rubio to end de facto amnesty,” the ad’s narrator urges at the end of the spot. “Support conservative immigration reform.”

The ad is interesting, if only for its origin. As Politico reports, Americans for a Conservative Direction is backed by FWD.us, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s recently formed political advocacy group.

Furthermore, Americans for a Conservative Direction’s board of directors features several longtime Republican Party insiders. The board includes former Jeb Bush chief of staff Sally Bradshaw — who co-authored the Republican National Committee’s “Growth and Opportunity Project,” which practically begged GOP lawmakers to back off of their anti-immigrant rhetoric — and Mississippi governor Haley Barbour, whose son Henry was also a co-author. Bradshaw and Barbour are joined on the board by Facebook VP Joel Kaplan, former Bush administration and Romney campaign advisor Dan Senor, and former National Republican Senatorial Committee head Rob Jesmer.

The ad’s messaging seems to reflect the lesson of a February Washington Post poll, which found that Republicans are a stunning 21 percent less likely to support establishing a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants if President Barack Obama’s name is attached to the proposal. By branding the plan as “conservative immigration reform,” Americans for a Conservative Direction hopes to distract Republican voters from the fact that the plan is actually very close to President Obama’s proposal.

If Republican reform advocates are nervous about selling an immigration deal to their base, they seem less concerned with winning support in the Senate. Senator Lindsey Graham — a co-sponsor of the “Gang of Eight” bill who is also backed by Americans for a Conservative Direction — recently told conservative Wall Street Journal commentator Fred Barnes that the bill could pass the Senate with as many as 70 votes, including 22 Republicans. While that prediction seems incredibly optimistic, it does appear likely that the bill has enough support to clear the 60-vote threshold that Republican reform opponents will no doubt require.

That still leaves the question of whether the bill can pass through the House of Representatives, where the Republican majority skews much farther to the right than its Senate counterpart.