I’m not sure how seriously to take this. But it does seem likely that Dems will mount internal pressure on the White House to hold off as the elections heat up.
So it’s worth detailing why, exactly, Dems worry that Obama acting could make a GOP Senate takeover more likely. The conversations going on among high level Dems, as I understand them, focus not just on worries that Republicans would seize on any act of Obummer Lawlessness to argue that Dem Senators are powerless to halt the Obama agenda and that a GOP Senate is necessary as a check on it. They also focus on the peculiar makeup of this midterm electorate.
The case goes like this: In the core red states that will decide Senate control, there are very few genuinely persuadable voters left. Base turnout will be decisive. Any action by Obama risks further inflaming the GOP base at a time when the fading of Obamacare as a major issue, and the lack of 2010’s seismic levels of rage, could mean core GOP voters aren’t quite as engaged as during the 2010 shellacking.
Meanwhile, Dem hopes for survival rest heavily on turning out the unmarried women who are increasingly key to the Dem coalition but sit out midterms. The way to move them is with a message relentlessly focused on women’s economic issues. Any move that allows Republicans to argue Dems are focused on giving jobs to illegal immigrants — however demagogic — risks muddling that message in the minds of voters who are already suffering from economic insecurity. While some argue acting would rev up core Dem groups, Latinos are not a major factor in these races and it might not have any such impact on these unmarried red state women.
The counter-argument: Any action by Obama could goad Republicans into a government shutdown or impeachment frenzy, and if there is anything that gets whatever swing voters remain off the fence, such outbreaks of GOP crazy are it. There’s a lot to that. But some Dems think the small group of persuadable voters left are probably mostly white voters who already deeply dislike the president and whose willingness to consider backing Dem incumbents is perched on a knife’s edge. They could prove more susceptible to GOP demagoguing on immigration than to worries about GOP process overreach.
If the economy is picking up in the fall, this argument goes, and Dem incumbents look like they may be hanging on, however tenuously, why scramble the deck? A Dem Senate majority is needed to protect Obama’s executive changes in any case.
I’m not endorsing this reading. I think “Congress won’t act, so I must” is a good argument that could neutralize GOP attacks. The politics of this are unpredictable and may not matter much to the Senate outcome either way. Obama should base his decision on what is legally possible and the timing on what is right in policy terms. But it’s worth appreciating what top Dems are really thinking.
* OBAMA: BORDER CROSSINGS ARE DECREASING: It passed mostly unnoticed, but at his presser late yesterday, Obama noted that the numbers of kids crossing the border is dropping:
“The number of apprehensions in August are down from July, and they’re actually lower than they were August of last year. Apprehensions in July were half of what they were in June. So, we’re seeing a significant downward trend in terms of these unaccompanied children.”
This will be key to watch, because if the numbers tick back up this fall, as some experts expect, the administration may conclude plans for executive action on deportations are politically prohibitive and may put them on hold.
* BENGHAZI PROBE ABOUT HILLARY PRESIDENTIAL RUN? The new House GOP committee to probe Benghazi appears likely to stretch its investigation out well into next year, and the New York Times reports that Democrats are increasingly convinced that the slow-walking is all about doing maximum harm to Hillary Clinton’s expected presidential run.
The head of the committee, Rep. Trey Gowdy, is bending over backwards to make the proceedings appear above politics. But as his Dem counterpart Elijah Cummings notes: “The question now is what is left to investigate.”
* KOCHS ARE MAJOR BACKERS OF McCONNELL: In the wake of audio surfacing of Mitch McConnell addressing Koch-network donors, the Courier-Journal takes a look at Koch contributions to McConnell and finds, shockingly, that they are fairly generous:
My research finds $40,800 in contributions from the Koch family and PAC to McConnell’s re-election campaign. But the PAC of Koch Industries has also given $25,000 this election cycle to McConnell’s own PAC, Bluegrass Committee.
Is it okay to say the Koch brothers’ agenda and motives are fair game for scrutiny yet?
* PENNSYLVANIA MEDICAID EXPANSION GETS MIXED REVIEWS: I noted yesterday the big news that Pennsylvania has agreed to implement its version of the Medicaid expansion. Health care advocates in the state say it’s good news that some of the more punitive elements GOP governor Tom Corbett had sought have been dropped from the proposal, but concerns remain about the affordability of premiums and other bureaucratic issues.
Presumably a Dem governor can tweak the expansion, however. And Corbett is trailing by over 20 points.
* PETERS LEADS IN MICHIGAN: A new EPIC MRA poll finds Dem Gary Peters leading GOPer Terri Lynn Land by six points, 45-39. While the write-up portrays this as a tightening from a previous poll that had Peters up by nine, the average of polls shows Peters with a lead of nearly five points that has held steady for some time. So perhaps this is one state where Republicans have not meaningfully expanded the map.
* KRUGMAN ON THE FALL OF FRANCE: Not our usual fare, but Paul Krugman’s column on France’s continuing focus on austerity, and the continual exaggerations of its economic problems, which of course are to blame on high taxes and government regulation, is deeply dispiriting.
It’s hard to escape the suspicion that it’s political: France has a big government and a generous welfare state, which free-market ideology says should lead to economic disaster. So disaster is what gets reported, even if it’s not what the numbers say.
* AND KEEP AN EYE ON KANSAS SENATE RACE: Sean Sullivan has a fascinating look at a Dem dilemma: With GOP Senator Pat Roberts seemingly in trouble, should Democrats try to get the Dem candidate to drop out, allowing the independent a better shot at winning, on the hope that he might caucus with Senate Democrats?