President Obama's announcement on immigration policy clearly has sweeping implications. The substance of the measure, which will benefit hundreds of thousands of families, is what matters most, but it's an election year and moves like these affect the electoral landscape in a big way -- especially for the president's opponent.
While Obama's willingness to implement the goals of the DREAM Act is likely to boost his support among Latino voters, Republican Mitt Romney has found himself in a far more uncomfortable position. This was evident on yesterday's "Face the Nation" -- a rare non-Fox appearance for Romney -- where he didn't want to talk about the president's move.
alienated Latino voters to such a remarkable degree -- he's arguably the most anti-immigrant major party nominee in a generation.
But Romney also hoped to shake the Etch A Sketch on the issue, expressing tacit support for Sen. Marco Rubio's (R-Fla.) still-non-existent, watered-down version of the DREAM Act. Obama has made this shift vastly more difficult, if not impossible.
Steve Kornacki explained the other day:
The assumption has been that Romney would ultimately line up with a modified Dream Act proposal being drawn up by Florida Sen. Marco Rubio. This was problematic for Obama, since immigration groups have been signaling their openness to Rubio's basic framework -- allow work permits, but not a path to full citizenship. So there was a potential for Rubio to roll out his plan, Romney to endorse it, and for momentum to quickly build behind it -- making Obama seem like a weak leader and helping the GOP's image with Hispanic voters.But with his action [Friday], Obama has essentially made Rubio's pending proposal official government policy. Obama looks like the strong leader here, and he also just blocked the path to the middle that his opponent was eying.
And that leaves Romney with a dilemma he'd prefer to avoid. On the one hand, if the Republican doesn't improve his standing with Latino voters, at least a little, he's going to find it very difficult to win in November. On the other, his party's base has strongly condemned Obama's move and expects the GOP nominee to side with them against the Democratic president.
As Greg Sargent put it, "Romney will likely be pressed to say whether he supports the new initiative, which means making a choice between the Kobach camp and the Rubio camp." As of yesterday, Romney refused to choose one over the other -- which is an untenable position that won't last.