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Could Donald Trump hand Marco Rubio the White House?

Marco Rubio

The most popular Republican candidate for president in 2016 is currently Donald Trump. But Trump has proposed some very controversial policies on illegal migration, most notably he plans to deport approximately 11 million undocumented migrants in the next 18 months to two years. He also proposes to build a better wall along the entire border with Mexico and an end to birthright citizenship. Not surprisingly, these policies are highly unpopular with the Hispanic community, as the below graph from Gallup reveals.

Gallup

But the main problem with Donald Trump’s policies on illegal immigration is that they cannot be practically implemented. In the most recent Republican debate on CNN, Donald Trump was asked how he planned to enact his policy of deporting illegal immigrants within the next two years. Trump did not directly answer the questions and said only that “it can be done with proper management, and it can be done with heart.” It is hard to imagine that the tearing up of families and the social dislocation entailed in the deportation of millions of undocumented migrants is likely to win many hearts.

But the fact that Donald Trump cannot provide the details of how his immigration policies will be implemented may prove to be his downfall. If he continues with harsh rhetoric he cannot matched with strategic policy implementation, it is unlikely that his policies will continue to be as popular when Republicans finally start voting for their nominee in February.

In fact all the Republican front runner may have achieved is raising illegal immigration to centre stage in the determination of the Republican candidacy. And this is where Marco Rubio is strategically placed to benefit from the rhetoric of Trump.

Marco Rubio, a Cuban American native of Miami, who is himself the child of migrants, once said in a speech to the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials:

The people who are against illegal immigration and make that the core of their argument view it only as a law and order issue. But we know it's much more than that. Yes, it is a law and order issue, but it's also a human issue. These are real people. These are human beings who have children, and hopes, and dreams. These are people that are doing what virtually any of us would do if our children were hungry, if their countries were dangerous, if they had no hope for their future. And too often in our conversation about immigration that perspective is lost. Who among us would not do whatever it took to feed our children and provide for them a better future?

 A full video of this speech is available here.

The sentiment in this quotation might be precisely what the Hispanic voting bloc in America is seeking — a reasoned, compassionate, and human portrayal of a complex problem. If Senator Rubio can connect with the Hispanic community in a way that other Republican candidates like Trump have failed, he will greatly enhance his prospect of obtaining the Republican nomination, and ultimately the White House. However this argument relies on two factors: 

    • Firstly it is contingent on the Republican Party recognising the importance of voting for a candidate who has the capacity to engage with the Hispanic community to obtain their vote, particularly in battleground states like Florida.
    • Secondly, it is contingent on Senator Rubio choosing to capitalise on his allegiance to the Hispanic community and finding a way to appease the concerns of Tea Party conservatives and others within the Republican movement that find some traction with the polices of Donald Trump.

Given the growing importance of the Hispanic electorate, particularly in pivotal states such as Rubio’s home state of Florida, you would think there would be a certain logic in the Republicans endorsing a candidate like Rubio. You would also think that Rubio would play to his natural strength of being the child of migrants, whose parents did everything they could to give him a better life — a story which resonates in America, a country of migrants proud of its capacity to nurture opportunity for hardworking individuals.

Only time will tell what path the Republicans and Rubio will take. But in any event, Donald Trump, by placing the illegal immigration debate centre stage in American political discourse and advocating such an unworkable stance on undocumented migrants, has presented Rubio his greatest opportunity yet to become the Republican nominee and next president of the United States.