Immigration reform is dead? Don’t tell that to President Barack Obama.
Even if an immigration deal is stalled in Congress, there are still plenty of reasons for the president to keep the issue in the spotlight.
Take fundraising, for example.
Immigration will be a central topic during a West Coast fundraising swing for Obama this week, the Associated Press reported. He made his pitch to donors on Sunday in Seattle, and will attend four fundraising events on Monday in San Francisco and Los Angeles.
He’s raising money for the Democratic National Committee and for House and Senate Democrats. That will come in handy for the midterm elections in 2014 and the presidential election in 2016. The House Democrats’ campaign committee has already targeted 17 Republican members over immigration reform.
But Obama isn’t alone in harnessing the immigration message for potential fundraising dollars.
Remember when Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) was selling immigration reform to the public early this year?
During the most intense period of the debate — the second quarter of 2013 — Rubio raised $3 million, a 31 percent increase from what he received during the first quarter, CNN reported.
Firing Up the Base
Showcasing his support for immigration reform appeals to Obama’s base voters, whom Democrats need to turn out in the 2014 midterm elections.
We all know Latinos strongly support immigration reform, but it’s not solely a Latino issue. As the nation’s fastest-growing ethnic group, Asian Americans have a lot to gain from immigration reform.
Asians have also drifted away from the Republican Party. Around three-quarters of Asian-American voters backed Obama in 2012. Although GOP rhetoric against immigration reform hasn’t been directed at Asians, many have felt turned off by the hostile tone of some in the party.
Obama is targeting his immigration pitch on Monday at Asian-Americans. He’s delivering his speech at the Betty Ong Chinese Recreation Center in San Francisco and the White House circulated a fact sheet detailing how reform could help Asian immigrants.
Distraction From Healthcare
Focusing on immigration reform gives Obama the chance to turn attention away from the flawed rollout of his signature healthcare law.
The president’s approval ratings plummeted to their lowest point ever amid the woes surrounding the Affordable Care Act. By highlighting a popular issue that his party has almost unanimously supported, the president is hoping to reverse that trend. He can also point a finger at Republicans for stalling the immigration push in Congress.
But momentum behind immigration reform has waned, and Obama has not come away unscathed. His approval on immigration reform is actually nine percentage points lower than his overall rating, according to a Pew Research Center poll. And his support among Latinos has fallen by double digits since the summer.
Although Democrats see immigration as a political winner against Republicans, that may not be the case if Obama receives pressure from his own party to act unilaterally to address the issue.
Jordan Fabian is Fusion's politics editor, writing about campaigns, Congress, immigration, and more. When he's not working, you can find him at the ice rink or at home with his wife, Melissa.