The Minefield

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The Wall Street Journal reports that there is growing anxiety among Democrats over immigration issues (like the one in the previous post. Many of the politicians feel that they are in real danger of alienating traditional core constituencies over the party's stand on immigration. The issue is starting to become a very dangerous one for Democrats.

Democrats "are pretty jumpy on the issue," says Rep. Luis Gutierrez, an Illinois Democrat who pushed for immigration overhaul in the House. "They would prefer to allow the Republicans to shepherd the Hispanic votes into the Democratic column without having to scare away a single other voter themselves," he says.

"That's not likely to happen. "This election could turn on this issue if we don't handle it intelligently," says Connecticut Sen. Christopher Dodd, a Democratic presidential candidate. After a recent Iowa City foreign-policy speech, four of the 30 questions passed up to him from the audience were about immigration.

In a Nov. 5 Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll, 11% of adults — and 4% of Democratic voters — said illegal immigration is their top priority. But members of that minority, organized on the Internet, have created political turmoil by flooding lawmakers' offices with faxes and regularly raising the issue on the campaign trail.

Similarly, a November University of Iowa poll shows just 2.4% of Iowa Democrats consider immigration as the issue "most important" to determining their vote, but 85% said a candidate's position on immigration is important or very important to them.

The report indicates that blue collar, African-American and middle class voters are all in jeopardy for the Democrats if they turn too hard in the direction of appearing to champion immigrant's rights over the needs of those voters. (Which they essentially just did as I pointed out in the previous post.) This is a minefield for the Democrats. If the Republicans get this issue right, addressing concerns over border security and pointing out that stemming a flood of illegal immigrants is in the best interests of immigrants who are here legally as well as other groups who are feeling downward wage pressure, this could swing the election in a new direction.

Failure to address immigration issues hurt the Republicans badly in 2006. It could prove even more devastating to the Democrats.

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