by Jonathan Singer, Mon Jul 09, 2007 at 10:27:09 PM EDT
As I noted last month the Republicans' anti-immigrant positions and rhetoric have already begun to take a real tole on the GOP's ability to win elections, particularly in states with relatively large Latino voting populations. But even with these overall trends, in the absence of an organized effort it's far from a foregone conclusion that the immigration issue would necessarily have an adverse affect upon the reelection hopes of a particular Republican legislator. It is for that reason that today's news from The Politico's Carrie Budoff of a move to go directly after some of the Senate Republicans up for reelection in 2008 who voted against comprehensive immigration reform could spell good news for the Democrats.
The goal was to work within the halls of Congress. Now, immigrant-rights groups want to replace the lawmakers who walk them.
Labor unions, immigrant advocates and Democratic activists have spent the two weeks since the Senate squashed a comprehensive immigration overhaul bill constructing the early framework of a political payback plan. Capitalizing on the Latino voting bloc and its disaffection with the Republican Party, the groups intend to use the recent debate as a rallying shriek in the 2008 election.
The multipronged effort is still taking shape, but interviews with a half-dozen leading immigration proponents suggest a combination of targets.
Senators such as Norm Coleman (R-Minn.) and John Cornyn (R-Texas), who are up for reelection next year and opposed moving the bill to a final vote, will likely find themselves in the immigrant community's cross hairs. The whole Senate will be singled out this week as the Coalition for Comprehensive Immigration Reform places full-page ads in ethnic newspapers listing senators by name, party affiliation and their vote on the Senate bill.
The devil, of course, is in the details. And it remains to see just what type of effort will be made to go after Senators like Coleman and Cornyn who demagogued on the issue and eventually voted against the compromise (however flawed it was). It's good to hear, for instance, that this group is beginning to run ads attacking Senators opposed to immigration reform by name around the country, but I hope that this is not the full extent of the effort at this point. Though it is certainly important for groups to have the resources to run campaigns immediately before elections, so too is it important to speak to issues when the iron is still hot. Just as is the case with judicial nominations, groups would be best served by laying the groundwork with grassroots action and targeted expenditures today that can be followed up with a more robust effort come the later stages of the electoral cycle.
Looking at the names listed as potential targets, it seems that there really is an opportunity for success -- not only in the bluish purple state of Minnesota but even in the significantly redder state of Texas. Currently in Minnesota, Coleman's approval numbers don't look terribly good, and the fact that he was outraised for the quarter by a potential Democratic challenger, Al Franken, does not instill much confidence in his hopes at securing another term. And the numbers for Texas might in some ways look even worse for its freshman Republican Senator, Cornyn, whose approval numbers are even worse than those of Coleman and who, according to DSCC polling, has reelect numbers south of 50 percent. Apropos this story, in particular, a move to rally the Hispanic community against Cornyn -- a community that played a major role in helping the Democrats secure their 233rd seat in the House back in December -- could cause a real headache for the Republican Senator, as well as the NRSC, as it may cause the candidate and committee to spend more and earlier than they had previously expected.