Democratic leaders are planning an aggressive effort to turn the House GOP lawsuit against President Obama into a political positive in the 2014 elections, with ads and other paid media designed to cast the GOP as extreme and committed to destructive governing — which Dems hope will contrast sharply with their concrete economic policy agenda.

This week, Republicans are expected to mark up the lawsuit in committee, and in an interview, DCCC chair Steve Israel — who oversees House races for Dems — said Dems are launching a campaign designed to “contrast Republicans focused on suing the president with Democrats who are focused on economic solutions for the middle class.”

Democrats will be pumping robocalls highlighting the lawsuit into the districts of 18 vulnerable House Republicans, Israel says. The robocalls, which preview the messaging Dems will employ while Members are at home for recess, say:

“Republicans in Congress are about to vote to spend millions of taxpayer dollars on a frivolous lawsuit against President Obama. Even worse, Congressman [X] is voting against priorities that actually would help middle class families — like equal pay for equal work and lower interest rates on student loans…tell Congressman [X] to focus on fixing the economy, not wasting our money.”

“We’re going to make August very hot,” Israel told me. “Paid ads, robocalls, rallies, protests — we’re going to use earned and paid media to continue to drive the critical contrast between Republicans focused on suing the president and issuing subpoenas versus Democrats who are focused on specific economic solutions.” Democrats recently rolled out an “Action Plan” policy and campaign blueprint that includes a minimum wage hike, infrastructure spending, student loan relief and other pocketbook proposals.

The problem for Dems is there just may not be that many competitive GOP-controlled House districts to begin with, and on top of that, core Republican voter groups are expected to turn out at much higher rates than core Dem ones. As Amy Walter has noted, Dems suffering from an “anger gap” perhaps need “a good old-fashioned Republican boogey-man/woman to get their partisans fired up and ready to go.”

Could the House GOP lawsuit play this role? Israel suggested it could, but offered nuance: He insisted Republicans’ efforts to energize their base with the lawsuit alienate the middle, while the Dem message contrasting the lawsuit with their economic agenda boosts the Dem base and appeals to the middle. “They are motivating their base with the lawsuit, but they are also motivating our base,” Israel said. “We win decisively on middle class economics — these messages unite our base with persuadable voters.”

It’s true that policies such as pay equity and the minimum wage hike have broad appeal, but it’s unclear how much swing voters will matter on the locked-up House map. Israel maintained reaching swing voters could put as many as 30 GOP districts in play. Cook Political Report puts that number below 20.

Whatever happens in the House, it’s possible such messaging could spill over into Senate contests. With Republicans working to nationalize Senate races by making them all about Obama, Dems hope banging the drum about the lawsuit nationally could recast GOP attacks on the president in a more extreme light, potentially helping turn out African Americans and other core groups in key Senate races.

* CONSERVATIVES URGE GOP NOT TO ACT ON BORDER: House Republicans yesterday rolled out their plan to address the border crisis, and the Post reports that Ted Cruz is urging House conservatives to hold firm against any compromise. And this is perfect: As the Post reports, none other than Steve King is praising Cruz’s fortitude in this regard.

As noted here yesterday, House Republicans may not be able to pass any border crisis plan, because conservatives are explicitly urging the GOP to do nothing at all because it could lead to negotiations with the Senate over immigration, which is an absolute No No.

* QUOTE OF THE DAY, OBAMA DERANGEMENT SYNDROME EDITION: Also from the above Post story, this explanation from Steve King as to why conservatives may oppose any final border bill is instructive:

“We’re putting our head in the noose and associating ourselves with the president’s problem.”

And there you have it. Conservatives must not support any response to the crisis because it will not only lead to negotiations with the Senate, but because it will help #Obummer clean up “his” mess.

 * MIGRANT CRISIS SEEMS TO BE EBBING: The Wall Street Journal reports that thanks to international efforts and expedited up deportations from the U.S., there has been a steep drop in apprehensions of migrants crossing the border, from over 2,000 weekly in June down to around 600 weekly now.

There’s obviously still a long way to go. But if the administration can get a handle on this crisis by this fall — and Republicans have killed any Congressional response to it — the politics could conceivably favor bold executive action by Obama on deportations.

* JEB BUSH URGES ACTION ON IMMIGRATION: Jeb Bush, who got in trouble for urging Republicans to accept legalization, is at it again. He has now co-authored a piece telling members of his party that the current crisis is a case for acting on immigration reform, not against it:

The best antidote to illegal immigration is a functioning system of legal immigration….Obama has promised to once again act unilaterally if Congress fails to take up immigration reform. Now is the time for House Republicans to demonstrate leadership on this issue. Congress should not use the present crisis as an excuse to defer comprehensive immigration reform.…we have too often seen what happens when the president oversteps his constitutional authority. Avoiding similar disastrous results will require legislative action by both parties.

Remember, many Republicans are blaming Obama lawlessness for the current crisis. Behind Bush’s standard-issue bluster about the president lurks the real message: Yelling #ObummerTyranny is not an excuse for Republican action.

“Let’s talk about debt, the economy and jobs and who brings more value to that debate. Someone who has been running a philanthropy for 15 years or whatever, or someone who has been out here, not to go bragging, competing in the real world?”

Hmm. Where have we heard that argument before? Of course, this time the battle is in Georgia, where Mitt Romney won by seven points.

* FOES OF OBAMACARE REDUCED TO ‘SOPHISTRY’: E.J. Dionne rips apart the argument at the core of the Halbig decision gutting Obamacare subsidies, slamming the idea that Congress did not intend subsidies to those on the federal exchange as a complete fiction. As Dionne says, “many other parts of the law clearly assume that the subsidies apply to people on both the state and federal exchanges…during the very long debate over the ACA, no one ever said otherwise.”

There are two layers of absurdity here. One is the idea debunked by Dionne. Meanwhile, others have argued that Halbig proponents are merely insisting that the ACA be enforced “as written.” That is also nonsense.

The mainstream is now on the hard right, and that it is close to apostasy to say that Obama is legitimate, that climate change is real, that background checks on guns are desirable…when one looks at the state of Republican public opinion (especially among the likely caucus and primary voters), at the consistent and persistent messages coming from the information sources they follow, and at the supine nature of congressional leaders and business leaders in countering extremism, it is not at all likely that what passes for mainstream, problem-solving conservatism will dominate the Republican Party anytime soon.

Just look at how many GOP Senate candidates preferred by the GOP establishment have supported Personhood measures and are climate skeptics, for instance, or at all the issues where the Tea Party is getting its way from the GOP leadership.