When Barack Obama insisted last week that the southern border was more secure than at any time over the past 20 years, no one was surprised to hear Republicans scoffing at the claim. However, they’re not the only people calling Obama’s claim false. Three Arizona Democrats in Congress blasted Obama this weekend, worried that voters in their districts might hold them accountable for Obama’s posturing:
Anticipating a furor of voter criticism over the July Fourth recess, Democratic lawmakers from the border region shot back at the White House last week, challenging the president’s speech on immigration in which he said that the southern border is secure.
Arizona Democratic Reps. Ann Kirkpatrick, Harry Mitchell and Gabrielle Giffords joined a growing Republican chorus in denouncing President Barack Obama for not pushing for more specific action in his Thursday speech on the nation’s immigration and border security issues.
Obama said that the U.S.-Mexico border is more secure today than at any time in the past 20 years. But the three Arizona Democrats disagreed.
“The crisis on America’s borders won’t be addressed with words,” said Giffords. “I was disappointed to hear the president give short shrift to border security concerns by saying that our nation’s southern border is more secure today than at any time in the past 20 years.
“That is not a sign of progress, it is a statement on the poor job we have done in securing the border for the past two decades.”
Why have these Democrats broken ranks? It’s not difficult to figure out their motivations. Giffords represents a district that is narrowly Republican, according to the Cook Report (R+4). She took office after the 2006 Democratic landslide in a district that went for Republicans in each of the past three presidential elections. Giffords won’t have a chance in a border district if she lined up with Obama.
Giffords’ district is actually the most competitive of the three. Mitchell has a bigger problem, with a district R+5 that also voted for Bush twice and McCain once in presidential elections. Mitchell beat J. D. Hayworth in this suburban Phoenix district. Kirkpatrick’s district is R+6 and has been represented by a Democrat for a total of eight years over the 62 years it has been in existence. Rick Renzi’s troubled exit from Congress allowed her to win here in 2008, but she’s not going to escape scrutiny this time around.
Still, the defection of these Democrats seriously undermines Obama’s position on border security, as well as his attempt to redirect attention from it by attacking Arizona. The three Democrats in the best position to corroborate his claims have instead refuted them and agreed with Republicans that the federal government is failing to do its job. Unfortunately for these three Democrats, as essential as it is for them to distance themselves from Obama on this point before the midterms, it won’t do much good for them with the voters in their districts. If the federal government is failing them, these districts will almost certainly end their experiments with Democratic representation in the House, regardless of which bandwagon the Democrats belatedly join.