- The Washington Times - Monday, April 24, 2006

Immigration politics

Democrats think they will be helped by blocking immigration reform in Congress this year, according to a new poll of the party’s most influential political strategists.

The Democratic operatives said that a failure to enact immigration reform would be blamed on Republicans, who would be punished in the fall elections by base voters who want to see the border closed, reports Charles Hurt of The Washington Times.

Also, the Democrats said, if all that remains at the end of the year is the tough immigration bill approved by the House last year, then Republicans will lose all support among Hispanic voters.

In the “Political Insiders Poll” conducted by National Journal, 83 percent of the Democrats surveyed said they will be helped in this fall’s elections if Congress fails to enact comprehensive immigration legislation this year. Only 10 percent said the Democrats would be hurt.

Of Republican insiders surveyed, 60 percent agreed that the GOP would be hurt in this fall’s elections if Congress fails to approve immigration legislation. That compares with 31 percent of the Republicans who said the party would be helped.

One Republican insider surveyed said, “Failure will be caused by shortsighted isolationist fearmongers who will create the impression that the Republican Party is racist and shortsighted. This could be the last Republican congress for decades.”

“Republicans have completely wiped out the inroads Bush made in his two campaigns with Latino voters in America,” agreed one Democrat. “If [Republicans] fail to act, it will hurt them. And if they pass some draconian measure, it will hurt them.”

Kerry’s response

Sen. John Kerry dismisses as “absolutely ridiculous” the notion that his support for Iowa and New Hampshire’s prominent roles in the presidential nomination process means he thinks only the votes of white people count.

Many Democrats complain that the two early nomination elections winnow out candidates based on votes from small states with overwhelmingly white populations. The party is considering adding, during those early weeks, one or two states with more ethnic diversity in other regions.

Mr. Kerry, the 2004 Democratic nominee for president and a possible candidate in 2008, wrote a column for the New Hampshire Sunday News arguing that “the special role that Iowa and New Hampshire play in presidential politics has strengthened our democracy by [ensuring] that citizens at the grass roots engage directly with candidates for the presidency.”

On ABC’s “This Week,” the Massachusetts Democrat bridled when told that an unnamed Democratic strategist has said that by supporting the status quo, “you’re basically saying only white people’s votes count in those early states,” the Associated Press reports.

“That’s so much bunk,” Mr. Kerry responded. “I don’t know how to describe that comment in any other way than to say that that’s absolutely ridiculous. The converse of that is to suggest that the people in New Hampshire and Iowa are insensitive to those issues and don’t care about them.”

Boosting turnout

“Now that he’s back in the elections business, Karl Rove has a huge task on his hands: assuring strong Republican voter turnout,” FredBarnes writes in the Weekly Standard.

“At the moment, Republicans are in a funk. And their dejected mood may presage a low turnout in the midterm election on November 7. Should a large number of Republican voters sit this one out, Republicans could lose control of one or both houses of Congress. It’s when Republicans are either inspired or angry that they show up in large numbers and win elections. So Rove, along with Republican national chairman Ken Mehlman, has the job of shaping issues that will make Republicans angry or inspired, or both,” Mr. Barnes said.

“There’s one big problem — two, actually. First, Rove’s magic won’t affect the biggest issues dogging the Bush presidency and causing Republicans to be disheartened: Iraq and rising gas prices. But the second problem — President Bush’s sagging job approval among Republicans — is one that Rove can address by emphasizing policies that appeal to Republicans and by creating strong fears of a Democratic takeover. …

“With the 2006 midterm election six months away, the Republican base is uninspired. In the Fox News poll in mid-April, only 66 percent of Republicans said they looked favorably on the Bush presidency. This is a disastrous number for Republicans. Of course, it wasn’t as bad as the overall Bush rating of 33 percent, which included Democrats and independents.”

Ford visit

President Bush paid a visit yesterday to the ailing former President Gerald Ford at his home in Rancho Mirage, Calif., where Mr. Bush was spending the weekend, the Associated Press reports.

Mr. Ford and his wife, Betty, were waiting with smiles outside their low-slung stucco home, which overlooks a golf course, as Mr. Bush’s limousine pulled into the circular driveway. Mr. Bush gave Mrs. Ford a kiss on the cheek and had a handshake for the Republican former president. Mr. Ford then linked his arm into the president’s and led him inside the home in a gated community near Palm Springs.

The nearly hourlong visit, conducted out of public view and kept under wraps until the last minute, could be the last time Mr. Bush would see the oldest living former commander in chief. Mr. Ford, 92, was hospitalized with pneumonia for 12 days in January and has not been seen much in public of late.

After the meeting, the two presidents walked slowly out of the house holding hands. Mr. Ford was also leaning on a cane, and his wife walked alongside.

“It’s such an honor to be with President and Mrs. Ford,” Mr. Bush said.

“You remember these characters, don’t you?” he said, gesturing toward the waiting collection of reporters.

“We solved all the problems, didn’t we?” Mr. Ford said, smiling. Mr. Bush laughed and replied: “We sure did.”

On Friday, Mr. Ford released a statement defending Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld against calls for his ouster over his conduct of the Iraq war. Mr. Ford, who picked Mr. Rumsfeld as his White House chief of staff and then defense secretary during his administration, said in a statement that Mr. Bush was right to keep the Pentagon chief in his post.

Joint address

“America’s most unlikely friends, former presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, have done just about everything together but star on ABC’s ‘Wife Swap,’ but a visit by the dynamic Katrina Fund duo can still make history,” Paul Bedard writes in the Washington Whispers column of U.S. News & World Report.

“It’ll happen May 13 at Tulane University in New Orleans when, possibly for the first time, two former presidents join to give the commencement address. ‘They’re doing it as a show of support for New Orleans,’ says a Clinton ally. And, we hear, they both love the Cajun chow.”

Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3285 or gpierce@washingtontimes.com.

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