As your humble blogger has argued before, one of the under-appreciated stories of 2016 is that likely Dem nominee Hillary Clinton has already embraced much of President Obama’s agenda. With the GOP candidates all pledging, to varying degrees, to roll back whatever parts of that agenda are realized, and opposing elements of it that still hang in the balance, many basic contrasts for 2016 are in place.

Today Clinton will deepen the contrast on an issue that has potentially far-reaching demographic implications for the 2016 battle: Immigration. In remarks today at an event with DREAMers and immigration activists, Clinton will say:

Undocumented immigrants must have a chance for full citizenship under overhaul of the immigration system, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton will demand Tuesday.
“The standard for a true solution is nothing less than a full and equal path to citizenship,” Clinton’s campaign said in a preview of remarks she is expected to give during a visit to a largely Hispanic high school here.
“She will say that we cannot settle for proposals that provide hard-working people with merely a second-class status,” the campaign said.

A number of observers are pointing out that this aligns Clinton with the “left” side of the Democratic Party. This is not really right. In fact, the Democratic Party is more unified in favor of immigration reform than it has ever been, due in part to the increasing importance of Latinos to the party, and in keeping with the party’s broader shift on the priorities that matter to the emerging coalition that has driven Dem victories in recent national elections — nonwhites, millennials, and socially liberal college educated whites.

Clinton’s speech today suggests she sees holding that coalition as crucial, as does her recent rhetoric on police reform, on gay rights, and on climate change, perhaps at the expense of the culturally conservative blue collar whites who used to matter more to Dem electoral chances.

Clinton’s speech will be short on specifics. But it seems likely Clinton will ultimately embrace a framework similar to the one in the Senate bill, which trades massive investments in border security for a path to citizenship, the trade-off (security for legalization) most likely to produce actual bipartisan reform.

On this score, keep an eye on how the GOP candidates — particularly Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio — react to Clinton’s speech. Bush has genuinely challenged his own party by preposterously claiming the moral plight of undocumented immigrants is complex and that they may have something positive to contribute to American society. And he’s supported legalization. But at the same time, he’s gravitated towards what might be called a “safe zone” for GOP candidates on immigration: Insisting the border must be secured first (without explaining by what metric) before any kind of legalization can happen.

Meanwhile, Rubio — the GOP’s Great Latino Hope — helped champion the Senate bill, but he’s since retreated to that same safe zone. And Scott Walker has retreated even further, to a place where he’s flirting with limits on legal immigration.

The likes of Bush and Rubio will likely respond to Clinton’s speech by reiterating vague support for legalization but on the condition the border is secured first. In the long run, it seems obvious both Bush and Rubio have a very credible shot at doing better than Mitt Romney did among Latinos. But for now, Clinton’s citizenship gauntlet could help deepen the contrast between the parties in ways that favor Democrats. And here’s something else that could really help on that score: Clinton will probably express support for Obama’s executive actions shielding millions from deportations — which the eventual GOP presidential nominee will almost certainly have pledged to roll back.


* OBAMA APPROVAL EDGES UP: A new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll finds that Obama’s approval rating has edged a bit into positive territory for the first time in nearly two years: It’s now at 48-47. The polling averages still show Obama in negative territory, though even there his approval rose throughout late 2014 (and appears to be leveling off now).

The NBC poll also finds Obama’s approval on the economy at 48-47 — consistent with various indicators of rising economic optimism.

* HILLARY’S IMAGE TAKES A HIT: The new NBC/WSJ poll also finds that Clinton’s unfavorable rating is up six points since March: She’s moved from 44-36 then to 42-42 now. But she’s still leading all her would-be GOP challengers:

Clinton leads Bush, the former Florida governor, by six points (49 percent to 43 percent); Rubio, the Florida senator, by another six points (49 percent to 43 percent); and Walker, the Wisconsin governor by 10 (50 percent to 40 percent).

As always, early polls mean very little, but we’ll be posting them here (because you should at least know they exist), counting on readers to exercise appropriate caution.

* BROAD SUPPORT FOR IRAN DEAL: The NBC/WSJ poll also asks about ongoing discussions over a possible deal curbing Iran’s nuclear program:

Some people say that it is important to have an agreement in place to allow international inspectors into Iran to make sure it is not producing nuclear weapons since the alternative would be to end those discussions. Other people say that, given Iran’s actions in the past, the emerging agreement is too risky. They say we are better off holding the line on economic sanctions against Iran as a way to deter its nuclear program.
Important to have an agreement: 54
Too risky: 37

This is consistent with previous polling that has suggested Americans are skeptical such an agreement will work, but want to give it a try, anyway.

* DO-OR-DIE FOR IRAN BILL IN SENATE: The Hill reports that the Corker-Cardin bill to provide a Congressional vote on an eventual Iran deal is facing a “do or die” moment: It is at real risk of perishing, as Mitch McConnell decides whether to allow votes on amendments from Marco Rubio and Tom Cotton that would “toughen up” the terms of any deal. If such an amendment passes it will probably kill the bill.

The bottom line is that, if McConnell wants Congress to vote on the deal under the framework that both parties have agreed upon, he’ll probably have to move the bill forward, angering conservatives.

* HARRY REID TALKS TOUGH ON TRADE, NSA SURVEILLANCE: The Dem Senate leader tells The Huffington Post that he will not agree to allow a vote on “fast track” authority for Obama to negotiate the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal until the Senate votes on an infrastructure bill and on a bill to reign in NSA bulk surveillance.

As I’ve noted, the bill to curb surveillance — the U.S.A. Freedom Act — stands a chance of becoming law. But it will require Mitch McConnell — who wants to extend bulk surveillance until 2020 — to accept defeat. So it’s good to see Reid insisting that the Freedom Act get a vote.

* REPUBLICANS DEMAGOGUE TRADE DEAL — FROM THE RIGHT: Politico reports on a new one making the rounds, courtesy of the good Senator Jeff Sessions: The Trans-Pacific Partnership could unleash a flood of immigration, the suggestion being that this could take jobs from Americans.

Pro-TPP Republicans are furiously trying to stamp out the claim. This is interesting, because it gets at the question of whether conservatives in the House will defect from backing “fast track” authority for the trade deal, which — with enough Dem defections on the left — could sink it in the Lower Chamber.

* OBAMA ‘FINDS HIS VOICE ON RACE’: Peter Baker has an interesting piece arguing that the president is beginning to assert himself a bit more boldly on race in the wake of the Baltimore riots and other events drawing national attention. Note these remarks from Obama:

“I grew up without a dad. I grew up lost sometimes and adrift, not having a sense of a clear path. The only difference between me and a lot of other young men in this neighborhood and all across the country is that I grew up in an environment that was a little more forgiving.”

So, yes, apparently Obama is willing to discuss the absence of fathers — including his own.