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Francis Wilkinson: Why Obama Should Take Executive Action NOW

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Here’s Francis Wilkinson at Bloomberg weighing in on why President Obama should act now on immigration and deportations, rather than waiting until after the midterms or later.  Basically, the electoral map already looks bad for Democrats this fall.  Democrats should want Obama to shake things up and possibly improve the playing field.  Even if an executive action on immigration doesn’t help this year, it’ll be an enormous boon to Democrats among Latino voters in future years.  So why wait?  Read Wilkinson’s full column at Bloomberg or an excerpt below:

For each individual Democratic Senate candidate, Obama’s restraint makes sense. But for Democrats in general it may not. Under the circumstances, it’s hard to believe that enough Democrats will win enough close races to hold onto the Senate. There is very little dynamism in the polls. Consumer confidence has risen recently, but Obama’s approval rating hasn’t. The Southern tier of Senate races, in particular, has been muddled at best for Democrats since mid-summer. Remember 2012, when Obama maintained a small lead over Mitt Romney week after week after week? The battle for Senate control looks similar, only this time it’s Republicans with a small, consistent lead. In addition — Democrats’ robust turnout operations aside — Republicans have the more motivated base.

That’s where a presidential decision to defer deportations could come into play. It’s unquestionably a risk. But so is allowing the continued drift toward a narrow Democratic defeat in November. Executive action might inspire more Hispanics to go to the polls in Colorado, where Senator Mark Udall is running barely ahead of Republican Cory Gardner. It could also boost turnout among the much smaller Hispanic populations of Georgia, Louisiana and North Carolina. “When you do real things to help real people, real people get real enthused,” said a frustrated Frank Sharry, one of Washington’s leading immigration advocates.

And it could boost turnout among the sizable black electorate across the South. If Republicans responded to an Obama executive action on immigration with typical levels of personal vitriol and loud noises about impeachment, black voters might well become more engaged. They had the president’s back in 2012. If Obama came under sustained attack, they might rise to his defense again.

Either strategy is a crap shoot that leaves many Democratic Senate candidates simultaneously trying to distance themselves from Obama while also trying to motivate black voters. But executive action on deportations would also represent a huge down payment on future Hispanic (and, perhaps to a lesser degree, Asian) votes.The more fiercely contested the move, the more Hispanic voters would understand the political risk Obama was taking on behalf of undocumented immigrants. It could pay electoral dividends to Democrats for years. (It’s not certain a post-election move, on the heels of vocal disappointment from immigration supporters, would be as powerful.)

In difficult election environments, consultants generally prefer races to be atomized and less subject to national tides. That’s no doubt true for Democratic consultants this year. But there is a price to disappointing supporters. And if the dynamics of this election aren’t scrambled, Obama’s deference to Southern Democrats may still not be a route to victory. Deference on immigration might keep key candidates from losing big. Can it make them win?