Frances Lee, a professor of political science at the University of Maryland, suggests in her book Beyond Ideology “that presidential persuasion might actually have an anti-persuasive effect on the opposing member of Congress.”
This seems to have materialized in Republican obstruction to nearly every one of Obama’s priorities in his first term. But more importantly, in a divided government, the president’s aggressive leadership on a bill increases partisanship and decreases the probability that a bill will pass Congress.
Polling already shows that when Obama’s name is attached to a path to citizenship, support for it drops from 70 percent (when asked in the abstract if the proposal was favored) to 59 percent (when the pollster mentioned that Obama has proposed the measure). As The Post's Chris Cillizza put it, “Republicans don’t mind the idea in theory but loathe it when attached to Obama.”
Obama’s strategy with immigration reform will reflect these political truths. As House Speaker John Boehner pointed out to reporters, the president getting involved in the bill’s details will only be getting “in the way.”
If this bill becomes Obama’s immigration bill, it will scare off congressional Republicans—and without them, a deal is unlikely to happen.
So, no, the president didn’t spend much time discussing immigration reform, but for good reason. His involvement in the process would scare Republicans away. And he wouldn’t be able to move public opinion anyway. Immigration activists shouldn’t fret about his approach; it’s the best hope we have.