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July 09, 2014 11:42 AM “A Bomb in the Middle of the Midterms”

By Ed Kilgore

Nobody watches developments on immigration policy more carefully than Greg Sargent, and he’s now reporting that the White House is in the final stages of figuring out a strategy for dealing with deportation policy, already a big deal thanks to pressure from Latino advocacy groups, and now a bigger deal because of the sudden crisis over the surge of border crossings by Central Americans.

Though it’s not entirely clear what the president will decide to do, Greg makes it clear administration figures are fully aware of the political consequences:

Now that Republicans have made it clear that they will not participate on any level in basic problem solving when it comes to our immigration crisis, it is now on Obama to determine just how far he can go unilaterally, particularly when it comes to easing the pace of deportations. This is going to be one of the most consequential decisions of his presidency in substantive, moral, and legal terms, and politically, it could set off a bomb this fall, in the middle of the midterm elections.
According to two sources familiar with internal discussions, some top Dems have wondered allowed whether Obama going big would further inflame the GOP base, with little payoff for Dems in red states where Latinos might not be a key factor….
[But] some Dems are making the opposite case….
[M]y sense of internal discussions currently underway is that no one is really sure how the politics of this will play out. Indeed, to hear one source familiar with those discussions tell it, Dems mostly see this as guesswork, since we’re in largely uncharted political territory here: Yes, Americans support immigration reform and a sensible path to legalization, but no one knows how the public will greet unilateral action to bring about temporary relief from deportation, at least for some.
Indeed, this is probably a a six-of-one, half-a-dozen-of-the-other situation: While aggressive action will provide fodder for Republicans to drive their base into a frenzy with #ObummerTyranny talk, it could also bait Republicans into overreach that alienates swing voters and motivates the Dem base in a year when the midterm dropoff problem is putting control of the Senate in peril.

Greg argues Obama might as well make this a decision on the merits, and use his executive authority to its full extent. It does seem that half-measures are a recipe for making everyone angry.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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