Some Democrats, even in Arizona, are fearing an election backlash over immigration, as President Obama sues Arizona over its new immigration enforcement law and pushes Congress to pass a comprehensive immigration overhaul.
"My concern is that the federal government is suing the state of Arizona, ironically, over the ability to enforce immigration laws -- where if the federal government had been doing its job over the years, we wouldn't be in this situation in the first place," Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., said.
Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard, the Democratic nominee for governor, urged the Obama administration to back off Arizona's new law, which allows state and local authorities to ask people for immigration documents during unrelated enforcement encounters – such as traffic stops.
The president appears to be out of step with public opinion on immigration. The latest Fox News Opinion Dynamics poll shows 2-to-1 support nationwide for Arizona's law, including 73 percent of Republicans, 57 percent of independents and one out of three Democrats.
On immigration, the GOP accuses Democrats of ignoring a border crisis and selling out national security to cynically court Latino votes.
"The reason why both parties are playing football with immigration is because their supporters in the stands are cheering," said Larry Sabato, director of University of Virginia's Center of Politics. "This plays to the base on both sides. It's red meat for the base."
The liberal red meat served up by Democrats mostly stops short of calling Republicans racist but does call GOP immigration policy hostile to minorities, particularly Hispanics, the biggest and fastest growing U.S. minority.
But in Colorado, a recent Denver Post poll said 62 percent of Colorado Hispanics favor a law like Arizona's. The state's Republican gubernatorial front runner Scott McInnis supports it. But Democratic gubernatorial candidate John Hickenlooper, the mayor of Denver, opposes it, putting himself at odds with those Colorado Latinos.
"Until Washington D.C. realizes that they are being absolutely and totally failures at border security, you can't talk about immigration reform," Texas Gov. Rick Perry said.
On the other hand, Perry has seen his Latino support plummet and his double-digit lead over Democratic challenger and Houston Mayor Bill White all but vanish since the Arizona controversy began.
Separate from border states – wherever a close race emerges this year, count on immigration to be a prominent wedge issue.