President Barack Obamaís recent immigration directive could affect races beyond his own re-election campaign by boosting voter enthusiasm in key Congressional contests.
In some of the most competitive Senate and House races, the presidentís proclamation will likely help fellow Democratic candidates in states with growing Latino populations while enraging his opposition in other close contests.
The president on Friday issued an executive order to end the deportation of many young undocumented immigrants. His words marked a turning point with a Latino electorate disappointed by the presidentís failure to deliver immigration reform in his first term.
Even Republican strategists acknowledged the presidentís new policy as politically advantageous with Latino voters.
ďObama has a wide lead with Hispanic support, but heís definitely been having turnout and enthusiasm problems,Ē said Ana Navarro, a Florida-based GOP strategist. ďHis immigration announcement moved the needle on that ground.Ē
The results of the presidentís policy change will trickle down the ballot to House and Senate races in key battlegrounds. Here is where the effects might be felt the most:
• The presidentís policy could help boost Latino turnout in a few states with competitive Senate races, such as Nevada. Public polls show Rep. Shelley Berkley (D) trailing her opponent, appointed Sen. Dean Heller (R), by single digits. Similar polls show the president ahead in the Silver State, including by a massive margin with Latino voters. Census results show the Latino community makes up 27 percent of the stateís population, so any boost that the president receives here among the community probably helps Berkley, too.
To a lesser degree, the presidentís decree could boost voter enthusiasm among Latinos in two other Senate battlegrounds: New Mexico and Virginia. Hispanics make up almost half of New Mexicoís population, but Democrats are favored to hold the open seat anyway.
The Hispanic community makes up only 8 percent of Virginiaís population, but the community is one of the fastest-growing in the country. Even a small boost could make the difference in the commonwealthís tossup Senate race.
• On the other hand, Obamaís order could hurt Senate Democrats running in GOP-leaning states, such as Nebraska and Indiana. Democrats are defending open seats in both states, where their nominees are the underdogs.
Itís too early to quantify any adverse effects, but itís clear the immigration issue excites the GOP base in those states. Republican candidates in Indiana and Nebraska brought up the issue in their respective primaries. Come November, the presidentís order could give Republicans just one more reason to turn out.