Thursday's Tricky Immigration Politics

The Senate will hold a brief session Thursday to approve a House bill that provides $600 million for enhanced border security. While border hawks and other administration critics scoff at the measure, it is the best talking point Democrats have had on border security in a long time. Expect President Obama, leaving town for most of the rest of the month on Saturday, to make time today to embrace border security.

With the Arizona primary less than two weeks away, tensions are even higher on the issue in the Grand Canyon State. Sen. John McCain and Gov. Jan Brewer are touring the state to talk about the issue and their fight with the Obama administration to impose a crackdown on illegals. McCain's flagging Senate challenger, J.D. Hayworth, is trying to pull off a massive Tea Party, anti-illegal rally on the border this weekend.A new Pew survey finds that 8 percent of all children born in the U.S. are born to illegals. This will surely drive the recent debate over rescinding the clause in the 14th amendment that gives automatic citizenship to anyone born within U.S. borders. The Republican nominee for Wyoming governor upped the ante on Wednesday saying that children born in the U.S. to illegals should be deported with their parents.While President Obama is surely tempted to grab hold of border security as an issue, given that he and his party are getting pummeled on the issue. Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid's comments about the need to prevent profiling of Hispanics because "their skin's a tone darker" and how members of the ethnic group shouldn't ever vote Republican reveal, in a crass way, the Democratic strategy this year - fire up the left and other parts of the Democratic coalition. But as Univision anchor Jorge Ramos said, Obama has lost the support of Hispanic citizens as he has failed to deliver on campaign promises, especially as it relates to immigration. Ramos says that Hispanics are tired of the speeches and don't trust the president. Embracing border security, even if it's small beer, won't win back any of his base voters.Democrats pretty obviously underestimated how badly off they were with independent voters and moderate Democrats this year. Thursday's polls show that support for the president, his party and their policies continue to crumble.

We know Democrats underestimated because the strategy for 2010 - fire up the left to match the Tea Party right and then blame George W. Bush - was not predicated on Reagan-like victories for Republicans with middle class, middle Americans.Whether it's terrorism policy, teacher bailouts or immigration, Democrats find themselves tied to a difficult strategy. If they please the left, they lose what's remains of the center. But trying head fakes to show moderation on issues by the president and his team (a la Robert Gibbs carping about the professional left) will only further suppress core turnout, putting more traditionally blue seats up for grabs.