The List

6 signs Obama's immigration shift is already paying off

President Obama probably hopes easing up on deporting young immigrants will help him in November. He may not even have to wait that long

President Obama is likely hoping his June 15 "bombshell policy announcement" to end most deportations of young undocumented immigrants will pay off in November, says Matt Taylor at Slate. Less than a week after his big press conference, the administrative shift is "already paying dividends." Not everybody thinks it was all that savvy a political move, including The Week's own Ed Morrissey. Still, even many Obama critics agree with the policy shift, if not the methodology. Here, six ways Obama is already benefitting from his softer touch on immigration:

1. Voters, including independents, are on Obama's side
The first poll on Obama's policy, released by Bloomberg on Tuesday, is a solid win for the president, with 64 percent of likely voters voicing support for his new immigration policy. The 30 percent who disapprove include a majority of Republicans — 54 percent — but 86 percent of Democrats back the shift, and independents approve by a 2-to-1 margin, 65 percent to 26 percent. Granted, it's only June, says Bloomberg's Lisa Lerer, but "Obama is winning the opening round in the battle over immigration."

2. Mitt Romney and the GOP are in a box
Republicans have been flummoxed by Obama's unexpected immigration move, says Sahil Kapur at Talking Points Memo. "The prime directive from GOP leaders has been to focus on the process and timing of Obama's administrative shift," but the move itself is still "provoking hostility from Republicans, much to the delight of Democrats." Romney, especially, is stuck between not wanting to depress his strongly anti–illegal immigrant base and not wanting to alienate the fastest-growing bloc of voters, Latinos, says Evan Puschak at MSNBC. "This, ladies and gentleman, is called a pickle," and his response so far — "continued waffling" — won't work for long.

3. Obama won the endorsement of the "Spanish Oprah"
"Obama got a big boost from Oprah in 2008, when she chose to endorse and campaign for the young Illinois senator," says Charlie Spiering at The Washington Examiner. Winfrey is staying off the trail this year, but Obama's immigration move netted him the next best thing: An endorsement from popular Univisión "talk show host Cristina Saralegui, someone equally as influential in the Hispanic community." Dubbed, in fact, the "Spanish Oprah," Saralegui not only pledged to "do everything I can from now until November to ensure that President Obama is re-elected," she also cut a 30-second ad promoting ObamaCare for Spanish-speaking viewers in Nevada, Colorado, and Florida.

4. He trumped Marco Rubio's immigration plan...
Almost as soon as Obama unveiled his new immigration order, rising GOP star Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) killed a substantively similar bill he was working on, blaming Obama for poisoning the water. "Rubio's brilliant move was to present a Republican alternative to the [Obama-backed] DREAM Act that would reposition his party on the issue," immigrant-rights advocate Frank Sharry tells The Miami Herald. "And that was trumped by an even-more brilliant move by the president." 

5. ...And depressed Republican hopes for inroads with Latinos
Obama might reap a "significant" short-term boost among Latino voters, say Chris Cillizza and Aaron Blake at The Washington Post, but that "pales in comparison to the long-term political effect if Hispanics become a solidly Democratic voting bloc." Latinos are the only real swing minority, and if they join blacks and Asians as reliably Democratic, given current demographic trends, it won't be long before "Republicans could win virtually every single white vote in the country and still not be able to win a national election."

6. Obama turned the conversation away from the economy
With this one policy shift, not only has Obama "already placed himself on considerably stronger footing going forward while presenting his opponent with a fresh challenge," says Slate's Taylor, he's once again used a hot-button social issue to "distract attention from the weak economy." Like Obama's evolution on gay marriage, this "was a deft move that enabled him to change the conversation," says Phil Singer, a top adviser to Hillary Clinton's rival 2008 presidential campaign. "Obviously, the economic narrative is not friendly terrain."

Read more political coverage at The Week's 2012 Election Center.


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