National Journal's political Insiders generally agreed across the aisle that the issue of immigration stands to help Democrats and hurt Republicans--at least on the margins--in the November elections.
Almost half of the Democratic Insiders said the immigration issue would "help a little" while a little more than a third said it would "help a lot." Among the Republican insiders, more than half believed immigration would "hurt a little," a handful predicted it would "hurt a lot," while three in ten said the issue would have "no effect."
On both sides, there was recognition that courting Latinos, the nation's fastest growing voting bloc, was important to each party's viability not only in the next election, but in cycles to come, although the degree varied. National Journal Insiders registered their opinions on the issue as SB 1070, Arizona's tough immigration law, goes before the Supreme Court, inflaming passions on both sides.
"Republicans have chosen to be hostile to the idea of the melting pot. Historically, nationalistic zealotry has always had a backlash in presidential elections," one Republican Insider said.
"A little now, a lot in twenty years and forever after that," another posited as to how much Hispanics' uneasiness with the GOP would hurt now and in the future.
"Hispanics in Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada could be the deciding voters in this campaign and Mitt has some fence building to do (no pun intended)," yet another said, referring to swing states with growing Latino populations.
The presumptive Republican nominee has raised eyebrows with his immigration stances, suggesting "self-deportation" as a mechanism for dealing with the nation's millions of undocumented workers and speaking favorably of Arizona's immigration law.
"Romney should have been the Republican to defend the American Dream but he pandered to the fringe instead. Very disappointing and now he'll pay a price," one GOP insider lamented.
Others took a more hopeful view, saying that the Republican Party and Romney had time yet to fix their perception problem with Latinos.
"Longer term, my party needs to get right on this issue, but I have yet to be convinced that it is a swing voter issue," one said.
Many also noted that the deciding issue of the 2012 elections will most certainly not be immigration.
"It's the economy, still, stupid," one Republican said.
"Did it help John McCain any to be strongly pro-immigration?" another pointed out.
Democratic insiders meanwhile predictably perceived the Republicans' problem with Latinos to be much more dire.
"If I was a Republican playing the long game, I'd stop trying to throw people out of the country who've lived here a long time. The long-run trend is bad for Republicans," one said.
"My guess is the Supreme Court upholds the Arizona immigration law," another predicted. "If that is the case, it will drive Latino turnout through the roof and help the president win New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, Nevada and re-election."
Or as yet another put it: "This issue will pay dividends for Democrats for generations to come."
Others were more tempered in their views, agreeing with their Republican counterparts that immigration is still a side-note to larger questions about the economy looming over the election.
"Latino voters in some states may be upset at the Republicans' posturing on immigration during the primary season, but it is not a game-changer," one Democratic insider said. "Let's face it--it's not like Republicans were planning on winning 40% of the Latino vote in any scenario."