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First thoughts: GOP and immigration

Good news/bad news for GOP in NBC/MSNBC/Telemundo poll on immigration… The poll shows that Latino voters are swinging widely for the Democrats, while their support for the GOP is dropping like a rock… Has the GOP learned the Pete Wilson lesson?... There are plenty of short-term (read: 2010) risks for Obama and the Democrats on immigration, too… Breaking down yesterday's testy Obama-Senate GOP meeting… The danger of the White House losing Bob Corker… Labrador fetches a win over Ward in Idaho… And the White House is sending Duncan and Messina to campaign for Giannoulias next month.

From Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, Domenico Montanaro, and Ali Weinberg
*** GOP and immigration: For the Republican Party, politically, there's good news and bad news in our new NBC/MSNBC/Telemundo poll on the subject of immigration. Let's start with the good news: The Arizona anti-illegal immigration law, passed by a GOP-led legislature and signed by a GOP governor, has been a short-term political winner. The poll shows that 61% of the public supports the law, and a Republican congressional candidate who backs the law beats a Democratic candidate who opposes it, 40%-26%. But here's the bad news: Latinos, once a semi-swing group of voters, now have swung overwhelmingly for President Obama and the Democratic Party, and younger Hispanics are moving to the Democrats in even greater numbers

*** Latinos aren't swing voters anymore: For example, 68% of Latinos approve of Obama's job (compared with 48% of overall respondents and 38% of whites), and they view the Democratic Party favorably by a 54%-21% score (versus 41%-40% among all adults and 34%-48% among whites). And their views of the Republican Party? In the poll, the GOP fav/unfav among Latinos is 22%-44%. What's more, Latinos think Democrats would do a better job than Republicans in protecting the interests of minorities (by 58%-11%), in representing the opportunity to move up the economic ladder (46%-20%), in dealing with immigration (37%-12%), and in promoting strong moral values (33%-23%). The only advantage they gave Republicans was in enforcing security along the border (31%-20%). And Latinos remain a sleeping -- yet growing -- political giant: 23% of them aren't registered voters (compared with 12% of whites and 16% of blacks), and

*** Dropping like a rock: It didn't use to be this way. In 2004, George W. Bush, the former governor of Texas, won some 40% of the Latino vote. But in 2006, that percentage for Republicans dropped to 30%, and it was 31% in '08. And check out these party identification averages among Latinos that our Hart (D)/McInturff (R) pollsters put together from our past NBC/WSJ polls; this chart puts together the YEARLY average of all Hispanics surveyed for each year (approximately 900 respondents are included in each yearly sample):

-- In 2004, Dems held a 22-point edge in party identification among Latinos (49%-27%)
-- In 2005, it was 24 points (48%-24%)
-- In 2006, it was 26 points (50%-22%)
-- In 2007, it was 30 points (52%-22%)
-- In 2008, it was 35 points (57%-22%)
-- In 2009, it was 31 points (50%-19%)
-- And so far in 2010, it has been 36 points (58%-22%).

*** The Pete Wilson lesson: Smart GOP strategists know this is a problem; the consensus is that Republicans need to capture AT LEAST 35-40% of the vote to win national contests. Yet looking at Republican primaries across the country, GOP candidates aren't looking at the long-term. In Arizona, John McCain is airing a TV ad declaring "complete the danged fence." In California, Steve Poizner is comparing Meg Whitman to Mexico's president in a TV ad criticizing her opposition to the Arizona law, while Whitman has a TV ad saying she "absolutely" opposes amnesty. And in Alabama, gubernatorial candidate Tim James says, "This is Alabama, we speak English. If you want to live here, learn it." Pete Wilson is an important lesson here, says co-pollster Peter Hart (D): In presidential races from 1952 to 1988, Dems won California just once. After Wilson's Prop. 187, Republicans haven't come close to winning the nation's biggest state. The next California could be Texas, and the GOP can't afford to have that big state become competitive.

*** The risks for Democrats, too: Of course, this doesn't mean that Latino voters won't hesitate to hold Obama and the Democrats accountable, either. In our poll, just 32% of all adults and 45% of Latinos approve of Obama's job on immigration. And yesterday, after his testy meeting with Senate Republicans, the Obama White House authorized the deployment of 1,200 National Guard troops to the border. And what if Obama is unable to pass comprehensive immigration reform, with 60% of the country favoring it, according to our poll? Could the Latino vote swing back?

*** The testy Obama-Senate GOP meeting: Speaking of that testy Obama-Senate Republican meeting yesterday, while perhaps no one should have expected a lovefest, it was even more contentious than we might have expected. And the tone-setter was GOP Sen. Bob Corker, still upset over being dealt out of the bipartisan financial regulatory reform talks. Corker told the president that his appearance came with a "degree of audacity." And Corker added to NBC News in a phone interview that he thought the president's words about bipartisanship didn't match his actions, pointing to financial reform. Corker's particularly angry at the White House because, as he notes, he made most of his Republican colleagues (even those in leadership) upset with his personal push to stay negotiating with Democrats for a bipartisan deal. But he felt at the end that the White House pulled the rug out from under him.

*** The danger of losing Corker: For their part, the White House insists Republicans like Corker have a different definition of bipartisanship than the president does, and that divide is what creates these party-line votes. One word of warning to the White House on Corker: He's not Jim DeMint; he's been one of group of, say, 10 GOP senators who have voted with the White House on occasion. And if there are bad feelings, it won't be helpful to them especially POST-November, when his Senate margin is a LOT closer than it is now. There are other press reports that Susan Collins told the president after the meeting that she seconded Corker's frustration. Bottom line: If the relationship with the Corker-Collins wing of the Senate GOP caucus stays this bad, there's almost ZERO chance that either energy or immigration is being taken up by this Senate this year.

*** Top kill: Today, BP will try the "Top Kill" procedure to stop the underwater oil spill in the Gulf. Said BP CEO Tony Hayward on "TODAY": "Over the last 12 hours continuing through the night, we have continued to take pressure readings and establish flow paths… Later this morning I will review that with the team and I will make a final decision as to whether or not we should proceed." Hayward added, "Our expectations are that if we determine we should proceed, it would happen today. I have to say that it would be a day or two before we can have certainty this worked." Meanwhile, First Read has confirmed that President Obama is expected to hold a news conference on the BP spill tomorrow before heading out to Louisiana on Friday.

*** Labrador fetches a win: And here's a lesson for all congressional candidates: If you're facing plagiarism and other charges heading into an election – like Idaho GOP congressional Vaughn Ward was – you're probably not going to win. "Idaho state Rep. Raul Labrador won a Republican primary Tuesday in the state's 1st district, capping a stunning come-from-behind victory over Vaughn Ward, a Marine Corps veteran and former Senate aide who was highly touted by the national GOP," CQ writes.

*** More midterm news: In California, Tom Campbell and Carly Fiorina participated in a debate yesterday… In Colorado, in a sign of trouble for Jane Norton, former state Sen. Tom Wiens "is ending his Senate campaign and endorsing county prosecutor Ken Buck (R) for the seat incumbent Michael Bennet (D) is defending," CQ reports… And in Illinois, the White House is sending Education Secretary Arnie Duncan and Deputy Chief of Staff Jim Messina to campaign for Alexi Giannoulias in June. 
  
Countdown to CA, IA, ME, NJ, ND, SC, SD, and VA primaries, and AR run-off: 13 days:
Countdown to Election Day 2010: 160 days

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