When the House Republican leadership found out that Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) claimed that for every undocumented high school valedictorian there were another 100 "hauling…marijuana across the desert," they correctly reacted in horror.
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) called the comments "hateful," and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said they were "inexcusable."
But King refuses to back down. In fact, he thinks he’s winning the debate.
King gave this explanation to Breitbart News: "You know when people attack you — in this business, when you're in this business, you know that when people attack you, and they call you names, they're diverting from the topic matter. You know they've lost the debate when they do that. We've talked about it for years. Tom Tancredo and I joked about it that that's the pattern. When people start calling you names, that's what confirms you've won the debate."
King is trying desperately to derail any attempt to legalize undocumented immigrants who came into the country as children and graduated from high school.
Rachel Weiner at The Washington Post says the incident shows how tough the politics of immigration reform are for Republicans: "The closer the party moves to passing real reform and beginning to repair its relationship with the Latino community, the angrier opponents within the GOP will get — and the more likely they are to make comments that can be used in Democratic attacks."
Meanwhile, King's comments are being replayed repeatedly on Spanish-language television — helping to define the Republican Party in the eyes of Latino voters.