Will Barack Obama get a bump from taking executive action on immigration policy? A new poll from Bloomberg doesn’t directly inform on that point, but the change itself gets nearly two-thirds support among likely voters polled. That, however, comes with a couple of huge caveats:
President Barack Obama is winning the opening round in the battle over immigration, according to a Bloomberg poll released today, putting Republicans on the defensive with his decision to end the deportations of some illegal immigrants brought to the U.S. as children[.]
Sixty-four percent of likely voters surveyed after Obama’s June 15 announcement said they agreed with the policy, while 30 percent said they disagreed. Independents backed the decision by better than a two-to-one margin.
First, the sample document from Bloomberg is conspicuously bare. Not only does it not include any partisan affiliation data (even though Bloomberg promotes the findings among independents), it doesn’t have any demographic data at all. It doesn’t list what other questions were asked, the order in which they were asked, nor does it speak to any bump in approval for Obama coming from the change in policy. As a polling document, it’s useless.
Furthermore, we have other consistent data to check. For instance, Gallup’s tracking polls would have already shown a significant bump in the rolling averages if this issue really moves the needle as Team Obama hopes. As of this morning, Obama’s approval in the three-day cycle that included Friday and the two days following the announcement sits at 46/47. The addition of Sunday’s data added a point to his approval and deducted two from his disapproval, which means Obama got some small bump over the weekend … but hardly a game-changer. The seven-day rolling average on the head-to-head race went from Romney up over Obama 46/45 to a 46/46 tie.
At Rasmussen, there was even less impact. The daily tracking poll on head-to-head matchup showed no change at all yesterday after a weekend where the policy change dominated, with Romney still up 47/44 over Obama. Obama’s approval rating also stayed the same at 46/53 from the day before, which was a drop from Friday’s results of 48/51. Even the SEIU/Daily Kos poll on the election only shows a small bump upward for Obama among the very Hispanic voters this courted, going from 52/32 to 61/32, a move of only nine points … in June … for the one big gimme Obama can produce for this voting bloc.
The effects of this move will be minimal and short term, I argue in my column for The Week today, mainly because immigration isn’t a big issue with most voters, and this change has only a temporary impact. They fired this gun far too early:
If the next jobs report comes back looking weak, the question of adding so many new workers to the mix will begin to get asked by more and more people. That will trump any benefit Obama gets from the rule change, because people are far more interested in jobs and the economy than in immigration reform. This change only provides Obama with a short-term boost and a short-term distraction from the main focus on this election — and it comes about four months too early to help.
Why not wait for October? By then, Rubio’s efforts might have eclipsed Obama’s opportunity. But then again, given Republican skepticism about approaching normalization policy ahead of border security, the risk seems rather low. Romney adviser John Sununu argued in The Boston Globe that the White House is on the verge of panic over its inability to deal with the economy and Romney, and that panic has now begun to drive Obama’s policy decisions. In this case, it not only drove the decision but also the timing, and stripped Obama of yet another potential game-changer down the stretch of the general election. By October, the economy will have buried this moment along with Obama’s gay-marriage evolution to ancient and only slightly curious factoids of political history.
Charles Krauthammer is correct to praise Romney for bypassing the fight over the immigration policy change:
“This is essentially a punt and I think Romney is wise to do it,” Krauthammer said. “First of all, this isn’t a presidential issue — it’s a congressional issue. This is an almost unprecedented grab of power by the executive from the Congress by essentially saying it’s not going to enforce a law. And I think it’s the Congress that ought to protest, and ought to be offended at the least — including Democrats in Congress — over appropriation of their power by the executive.”
But he also said the battle is a no-win scenario for Romney because it shifts the discussion, and had Romney attempted to take it on in his “Face the Nation” interview on Sunday, it might have backfired.
“But as to the politics of this, for Romney it’s a losing proposition to get in a fight,” Krauthammer said. “There is a clever trap by Obama. It’s a way to lure, first of all, Romney away from talking about the main issue — economics. Any day that Romney is talking about anything other than economics is a day Obama wins.”
As the polls show, the economy is what moves the needle with voters. The immigration change is just the latest attempt at a distraction, and it’s already falling flat.