What you find in the encyclopedia entry for “off the reservation,” as the Washington Post’s The Trail blog reports:
He may be the presumptive nominee of the Republican Party, but John McCain has yet to heal all the wounds on his right flank.
Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-Colo.), a failed presidential rival of McCain’s and an anti-illegal immigration gadfly, launched into the senator from Arizona for meeting in secret with Latino leaders last week in Chicago. One participant in the meeting emerged to criticize McCain for taking a tougher stand on illegal immigration on the campaign trail than the line he allegedly used behind closed doors. Now, Tancredo is taking up the cudgel in an open letter to his party’s presumptive nominee.
“Recently in Chicago, you had a closed door meeting with a group of Hispanic leaders,” he wrote. “Strangely, the closed door meeting was not on your official events calendar, no press was invited and no press release appears to have been issued. Yet, according to several news reports, you promised the group that you plan to pursue ‘comprehensive immigration reform.’ Senator, given your past sponsorship of amnesty legislation, such statements raise troubling questions. Are you planning to break a promise you made in February to postpone all other immigration reform legislation until we have first secured our borders?”
McCain has promised Republican lawmakers and activists that he will set aside his push to grant illegal immigrants a pathway to citizenship, at least until he can certify that the U.S. borders have been closed to illegal immigration. At the same time, he has tried to win back support from Hispanic voters who have fled the GOP since the party took up the immigration issue fervently in 2005. [Pols emphasis]
It’s a tough call for McCain: does he appease hardliners in his Party by backing off his previous support for comprehensive immigration reform, or does he gain more by reaching out to Hispanics and others disgusted by Tancredo’s brand of racially-charged “nativism?” Pitfalls either way, but we think McCain’s nomination proves ipso facto that the immigration hardliners are all offensive bluster with diminishing influence. McCain doesn’t need them, but he may be trying to cater to both sides of this issue–which could wind up alienating both sides.