A controversy Gov. Rick Scott likely didn’t want to deal with in the closing days of his Senate campaign: Birthright citizenship.
But on Friday, that controversy landed on Scott’s doorstep, with Sen. Lindsey Graham on the campaign trail with his fellow Republican.
The South Carolina U.S. senator is pushing a key point in President Donald Trump‘s agenda: Moving the ball forward on a re-conception of birthright citizenship as established in the 14th Amendment, vowing legislation on that front.
Trump has signaled a willingness to test the long-held interpretation with an executive order nullifying birthright citizenship for children of illegal immigrants born in the United States.
A strong base play, to be sure.
Yet for Scott, who has performed a complicated tango with Trump since the 2016 campaign, this controversy clouds the closing message.
The base-riling birthright citizenship issue being injected into the race distracts from more inclusive “melting pot” rhetoric that he ideally would be pushing as early voting heads into its final weekend.
Graham didn’t mention the issue in his remarks, and Scott didn’t meet with reporters afterward, removing a potential complication.
However, the Scott campaign did offer a statement after the event Friday afternoon, effectively saying he hadn’t arrived at a position yet.
“I believe legal immigration makes us a better and stronger country,” Scott said in the statement, “but illegal immigration does the opposite. I have not seen the details of what the president is suggesting and would need to fully review the proposal.”
“While I’ve been clear that Florida is a great melting pot, America’s immigration system is broken and Congress, including Sen. Nelson, has done nothing to fix the problem.
“My priorities continue to be securing the border and fixing the long-broken immigration system,” Scott added.
Scott had avoided giving reporters an answer to this question earlier in the week, but what’s clear is that any answer is fraught with potential adverse consequences.