Insiders Divided Along Party Lines on Impact of Immigration Debate
National Journal's political Insiders were divided on whether recent developments on immigration would push Latino turnout in the November elections to its highest level ever. In 2008, record turnout among Hispanics helped propel President Obama to a commanding victory. Ten million Latinos cast a ballot that year, favoring Obama over rival John McCain 66 to 32 percent, according to exit polls. Latino voters constituted eight percent of the electorate.
A full eighty-five percent of Democratic Insiders believed turnout would be even higher this election year, while only about a third of Republican political insiders thought the same.
Will the recent developments involving immigration prompt higher Latino turnout in 2012 than in 2008?
Many Democratic Insiders said the president's recent announcement that his administration would halt the deportation of some young immigrants who had been brought into the country illegally as children coupled with some Republicans' hard line stances would energize the Hispanic community.
"The president's decision on immigration, and Romney's refusal to embrace it, puts in stark relief the difference between the two parties," one Democratic Insider said. "Hispanics get it."
"The numbers don't lie. The Latino population will be a force like never before. The fact that little-known and untested Sen. Rubio remains as a possible Romney choice tells you all you need to know," another said.
"Latinos are energized. The choice between 'self-deporting' versus 'dreaming' could not be more stark," a third added.
Some Republican colleagues agreed, saying Obama administration had scored some wins with Hispanic voters that would pay dividends in the fall.
"This is the best thing to happen to the Obama administration since killing bin Laden," one Republican Insider said. "A major voting bloc that George W. Bush tried to bring into the GOP but which the extremists have callously turned away--for generations," another assessed.
A third Republican Insider took a darker view of the Obama administration's tactics.
"Fear is one of the great motivators of politics, and it won't take much to convince Latinos that their status in the U.S. is on the line in this election."
Still, there were Democrats and Republicans who said the weak economic picture and a general dampening of enthusiasm for the president would take its toll.
"Why do we keep thinking Latinos care more about immigration than they do about jobs?" one Democratic insider lamented. "They don't."
"Not appreciably. They aren't one-issue voters, and they are also feeling the negative effects of the Obama economy," a Republican Insider said.
Others also noted the record number of deportations carried out under Obama's watch that would also lessen the president's appeal among Latinos.
"Record deportations by this administration make Obama's fear-mongering ring hollow," one Republican Insider said. Another added, "Latinos are smarter than that. After bragging about extraditing more Latinos than George W. Bush, arguing that Latinos should now turn out for him is too much of a U-turn."