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First Thoughts: Introducing the 'Border Surge'

Introducing the “Border Surge”… How you get to 15-20 Senate Republican votes… Obama: the attainable vs. the aspirational… NYT: Obama pursuing regulations to limit power-plant emissions… Why basing broad conclusions from just one poll is like eating a box of donuts… Netroots grows up… Democrats air TV ad hitting McConnell in KY… And Schweitzer hates DC -- but still might run for office to work there.

*** Introducing the “Border Surge”: If the goal for immigration reform supporters is to get 70 Senate votes for the “Gang of Eight” legislation -- including support from at least 15 to 20 Republicans -- this is a pretty significant development. NBC’s Kasie Hunt reports that a bipartisan group of senators has reached an agreement to strengthen border security in the Senate's immigration bill by doubling the size of the U.S. Border Patrol and requiring 700 miles of border fencing. Hunt adds that the deal also includes tinkering with the E-Verify program for businesses and benefits. The senators involved -- Republicans John Hoeven (R-ND) and Bob Corker (R-TN), who have been working with Gang of Eight members such as Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), John McCain (R-AZ), and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) -- have dubbed it the "border surge" plan. And they are preparing to announce the deal today. "What we're trying to do is put in place measures that to any reasonable person would be an overwhelming effort to secure our border short of shooting anybody who comes across the border," Graham told reporters on Wednesday, per Hunt. Corker chimed in: "We have some people in our caucus that are never going to vote for an immigration bill, OK, I don't care if you -- it's just never going to happen. And so we realize that. And yet there are people who, with the right provisions, would."

Gregory Bull / AP

In this June 13, 2013 picture, U.S. Border Patrol agent Jerry Conlin looks to the north near where the border wall ends as is separates Tijuana, Mexico, left, and San Diego, right. Illegal immigration into the United States would decrease by only 25 percent under a far-reaching Senate immigration bill, according to an analysis by the Congressional Budget Office that also finds the measure reduces federal deficits by billions.

*** Getting to 15 to 20 Senate Republicans votes: Hunt says the compromise talks have been aimed at winning over enough GOP votes to pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill with an overwhelming majority of senators -- without angering Democrats who want to make sure that the path to citizenship included for undocumented immigrants isn't affected. The deal comes just after the Congressional Budget Office found that the Senate legislation would reduce the federal budget deficit by nearly $1 trillion over 20 years (though it also found that the bill would reduce illegal immigration by just 25%). Given these back-to-back developments, we’ll re-run our list from last week of how you get to 15-plus Republican votes (based upon last week’s cloture vote on the motion to proceed). And note that we listed Corker and Hoeven as a swing votes. 

Likely yeses (11):
Ayotte (R-NH)
Chiesa (R-NJ)
Collins (R-ME)
Flake (R-AZ)
Graham (R-SC)
Hatch (R-UT)
Heller (R-NV)
Rubio (R-FL)
McCain (R-AZ)
Murkowski (R-AK)
Toomey (R-PA)

Southern swing votes (need 3-4 more yeses):
Alexander (R-TN)
Burr (R-NC)
Chambliss (R-GA)
Cochran (R-MS)
Corker (R-TN)
Isakson (R-GA)
Wicker (R-MS)
Coburn (R-OK) 

Midwest swing votes (need 2-3 here):

Blunt (R-MO)
Coats (R-IN)
Fischer (R-NE)
Hoeven (R-ND)
Johanns (R-NE)
Johnson (R-WI)
Thune (R-SD)
Portman (R-OH)

Most fascinating swing vote that deserves its own category:
Paul (R-KY) 

Probable nos:
Cornyn (R-TX)
McConnell (R-KY)
Moran (R-KS)

*** Obama: the attainable vs. the aspirational: After covering Obama over the past six years, one of the seeming contradictions is his pragmatism (taking half a loaf on health care, for example) versus his idealistic rhetoric. And that idealistic rhetoric was on display in his Brandenburg Gate speechin Berlin yesterday. “Peace with justice means extending a hand to those who reach for freedom, wherever they live,” he said (even though the U.S. policy toward Syria has been incredibly cautious). “Peace with justice means pursuing the security of a world without nuclear weapons -- no matter how distant that dream may be” (even Obama’s call to reduce the U.S. arsenal by a third won’t eliminate nuclear weapons). And: “Peace with justice means refusing to condemn our children to a harsher, less hospitable planet. The effort to slow climate change requires bold action” (even though passing any climate-change legislation through Congress is a non-starter). But you can also reconcile Obama’s pragmatic-vs.-idealistic contradiction from these other words Obama delivered yesterday: “Complacency is not the character of great nations.” In other words, per Obama, even if you can’t obtain something immediately, that doesn’t mean you don’t strive for it.

*** Paper: Obama pursuing regulations to limit power-plant emissions: And while Congress passing any climate-change legislation is a non-starter, the New York Times reports that “President Obama is preparing regulations limiting carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants. The move would be the most consequential climate policy step he could take and one likely to provoke legal challenges from Republicans and some industries. Electric power plants are the largest single source of global warming pollution in the country, responsible for nearly 40 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. With sweeping climate legislation effectively dead in Congress, the decision on existing power plants — which a 2007 Supreme Court decision gave to the executive branch — has been among the most closely watched of Mr. Obama’s second term.”

*** Why basing broad conclusions from just one poll is like eating a box of donuts: Every political journalist and observer, including us, is guilty of drawing conclusions from just one poll. And yesterday, we received another reminder of the pitfalls of that practice. After a CNN survey (conducted June 11-13) found that President Obama’s approval rating had dropped to 45%, a Pew poll (conducted June 12-16) found it steady at 49% approve/43% disapprove. And for the record, our NBC/WSJ poll from last week showed Obama’s approval rating at 48%, though it also noted an erosion in some of his key traits. Folks, drawing conclusions from just one poll is like eating a box of donuts for breakfast -- it tastes great and it’s different than your usual breakfast meal. But you usually regret it later.

*** Netroots grows up: From today through Sunday, more than 3,000 liberal activists are expected to attend Netroots Nation in San Jose, CA, in the heart of Silicon Valley. In its eighth year, this progressive confab (which originally was called “Yearly Kos”) will be the largest conference of what is already the largest gathering of liberal activists in the country. Another way the conference has evolved: When it first started, it was mostly grassroots bloggers and enthusiasts; now it includes professional Democratic operatives. The keynote speaker tonight is Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) at 8:45 pm ET. He’ll be followed by former Massachusetts Rep. Barney Frank, and former DNC Chairman Howard Dean (slated to speak around 10:00 pm ET). Friday’s main event is a session on guns with the head of Mayors Against Illegal Guns. Saturday deals with immigration and a Q&A with Democratic House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

*** Democrats air TV ad hitting McConnell in KY: The Democratic Super PACs Patriot Majority USA and Senate Majority PAC are airing a TV-ad campaign in Kentucky (buy at $250,000) that hits Mitch McConnell for his 30 years in Washington. The TV ad repeats this line from McConnell over and over: “I’ve lived on a government salary for 30 years.” And it concludes with these words:  “After 30 years … it’s time to switch.” Democrats, however, have just one problem in their quest to defeat McConnell: They don’t have a candidate yet.

*** Schweitzer hates DC -- but still might run for office to work there: And speaking of Senate candidates, don’t miss this Roll Call interview with former Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer, who’s expected to run for the Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT). The headline of the Roll Call piece: “Brian Schweitzer wants you to know he hates Washington, DC.” Some of the passages:

“Roll Call: How are you, governor?
Brian Schweitzer: I’m doing fine. I’m actually in Georgetown.
RC: Georgetown, D.C.?
BS: No. Georgetown, D.C.? God, that place sucks. Georgetown Lake. … Come on, I don’t want that smell on me.”

And:

“RC: So what are you doing to maybe look at it? [The Billings Gazette] said you were in D.C. — were you meeting here with potential supporters
BS: Oh, I was having a look around to see how bad it would be to live there. And I concluded it was really bad to live there — traffic is bad, weather is worse. Most of the people you talk to are frauds. You know.”

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