Difficult as it may be for his critics in Ventura County to comprehend, the selection last week of Rep. Elton Gallegly of Simi Valley to chair the House Judiciary subcommittee on immigration is being heralded by national Republicans as a signal to the Latino community that the GOP is moderating its strident views on illegal immigration.
At least that's what reports coming from Florida today indicate, as former Gov. Jeb Bush hosts a conference to discuss how the GOP can improve its standing among Latino voters nationwide. Latinos are the fastest-growing subgroup of voters in the nation, and Republican leaders such as Jeb Bush and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich have made it clear in recent weeks that the party cannot expect to win the presidency in 2012 unless it can close the 70-30 gap in which its candidates have been losing to Democrats among Latino voters in key states.
So where does Gallegly come in? Even though he's made the fight for tougher illegal immigration laws the centerpiece of his career in Congress, calling for such things as the denial of education to illegal immigrant children, his selection over that of Iowa Congressman Steve King is being heralded as a sign that national Republicans seek to tone down their rhetoric on the issue.
Gallegly might be tough, but King is bombastic.
In a report on today's conference in Miami, National Public Radio spoke with Alfonso Aguilar, the executive director of the Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles.
Here's what he had to say about the selection of Gallegly over King:
"To me, the message is, 'Steve King, you're too loud and you're saying things that are very offensive. We don't want to see that.' That's a very good first step: Reject the ugly rhetoric. The question now is can we propose, can Republicans practically propose immigration solutions that go beyond enforcement only? And if we do, Hispanics will respond very favorably."
Gallegly, as those who have followed his career in Ventura County over the years are aware, is not likely to be the one who proposes policies that go beyond enforcement.
As he told Star Washington reporter Michael Collins last week, Gallegly intends to use his new position "to step up congressional efforts to remove illegal immigrants from the workforce."