How little respect has Jim Gilmore received in his quixotic bid for the presidency this year? Well, when your poll numbers are considered to be so paltry that you’re not even invited to the early non-prime time GOP presidential debates, that’s a pretty good sign about what the party (and cable news executives) thinks of you.
But the former Virginia Governor and RNC Chair is indefatigable, and there he was on Saturday at shortly before noon addressing hundreds of Florida Republicans at the Sunshine Summit at the Rosen Shingle Creek hotel in Orlando.
In the wake of the Paris terrorist attacks, Gilmore shifted the majority of his 20-minute speech to how he dealt with terrorism as Governor of Virginia in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.
But his most interesting remarks were when he said that the Republican party was making a mistake with their harsh rhetoric regarding immigration during the current campaign.
“We as a Republican Party seem to be on the attack against the Latino community, and of Latinos who live among us,” he said, preceding that remark by saying he wasn’t sure the audience would welcome them. “We seem to be expressing attacks on the Constitution, when we threaten to take away birthright citizenship from people in this country.”
Gilmore said he didn’t think much of Donald Trump‘s call this week for a “deportation force’ to drag millions of undocumented immigrants out of the U.S. “To rip up our society at the very time that we need unity in the face of these challenges. I want you to know, this is fascist talk. It is unworthy of the great Republican Party of the United States. It may be acceptable to some people, but it is not acceptable to me.”
There was some scattered applause, but not much.
Later on in a Q&A with reporters, Gilmore said that though it may be “fashionable” to speak so disparagingly about Latinos in the GOP circa 2015, but he won’t do it.
“I reject it. I think it’s bad for the party. I think it’s unacceptable for the Republican Party, and frankly, it’s bad public policy for the United States,” he said, adding that he does believe that the U.S. needs to bulk up on border security and does not believe in granting a pathway to citizenship for those who broke the law in crossing the Southern border.
He questioned whether a deportation force could even be assembled in a constitutional fashion now. “Load people up on buses and trains and send them someplace, ripping families apart? That is awful policy, and a terrible message for us to be sending.”
Gilmore added that the tough rhetoric employed by Trump, Ted Cruz and others is going to be a problem for the GOP in states like Florida, California, Texas and other states with large Latino populations. “The Republican Party is going to have a real challenge being elected to the presidency in 2016 if we kept sending this message and nobody stands up and contradicts it.”
Gilmore may be struggling in the polls, but his stance echoes Jeb Bush and John Kasich in looking more toward a general election strategy in discussing immigration — but doesn’t appear to be what GOP primary voters — including in Florida — really want to hear now.