Why Obama retreated on immigration

Immigration reform fit snugly into the White House’s framing of the midterms as a choice between Democrats looking to get things done in people’s lives and Republicans refusing to do anything so they can score political points. With one executive order, Obama could defer deportations for potentially millions of undocumented immigrants and solidify his party’s advantage with Hispanics, one of the country’s fastest growing voter blocs.

He could motivate beleaguered Democrats and boost turnout among Latinos, labor and a wider progressive base that’s increasingly identified immigration reform as a top cause.

But the White House didn’t like the timeline. Senior administration officials privately blamed Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) for creating the expectation that Obama should take steps by the end of the summer. Facing pressure from activists in February, Durbin and Schumer were the first senior Senate Democrats to embrace the calls for executive action if the House failed to pass a bill by August.

Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) also endorsed the demand for late-summer action, putting him at odds with Democrats fighting for their political survival in Republican-leaning states.