Immigration restriction groups claimed victory after the midterm “O’bliteration” wave, and warned GOP leaders to resist business demands for additional immigration.
The wave of GOP victories was “a dramatic affirmation of the policies our GOP candidates campaigned on: controlling spending, balancing the budget, repealing Obamacare, unleashing American energy, and boosting wages through pro-worker reforms,” said Sen. Jeff Sessions, who has led the fight against the immigration-boosting bill championed by Obama, business and the entire Democratic caucus in the Senate.
Progressive groups, however, insisted that Democrats would have done better if President Barack Obama had pushed the issues harder, instead of walking away from an unpopular late-summer promise to implement a unilateral amnesty for millions of illegals.
“Democrats need to lean into immigration ahead of 2016 — it’s good politics and the right thing to do: especially in the run up to the 2016 election where the changing American electorate is likely to show up in full force,” said Frank Sharry, the director of America’s Voice, a prominent progressive pro-amnesty group.
“Democrats should be looking forward to this fight, not running from it,” he continued.
But GOP wins in state elections in Colorado, Texas, New Mexico, Nevada and Oregon also showed that Republicans scored high among Latinos, especially the established second and third-generation Latino voters that lean Republican.
Nationwide, Republicans won 35 percent of the Latino vote, despite Democrats’ efforts to paint them as anti-Latino, according to exit polls. That score is significantly higher than the 27 percent won by Mitt Romney in 2012.
In part, the GOP gained because many Democratic-leaning Latinos did not vote. Latinos comprised eight percent of the midterm electorate, down from 10 percent in 2012.
The Democrats’ nationwide defeat prompted several prominent media figures suggest that Obama will find a way to cancel his semi-secret plan for a unilateral amnesty of several million illegals.
Implementing the Oval Office edict would be a “provocative act politically … [and start] a political war in Washington between the White House and the Republican Congress,” said MSNBC’s Chuck Todd.
The amnesty “would be the political equivalent of literally flipping the country the bird,” said National Journal’s Ron Fournier.
So far, the GOP leadership has continued to zig-zag between the anti-amnesty base and pro-amnesty donors, such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
In the next few months, the pressure on GOP leaders to pick one side will grow — even as GOP’s 2016 candidates struggle to offer platforms that can win visceral support from skeptical voters prior to the expected 2016 race against Hillary Clinton.
Poll numbers suggest that new GOP candidates gained by opposing the amnesty and distancing themselves from Obama’s immigration record.
None of the three GOP senators who voted for the Senate amnesty and guest-worker bill lost their seats, but several Democratic senators and candidates who backed the measure lost their races.
In Georgia, where David Perdue also staked out an anti-amnesty role, and performed better than pre-election polls predicted.
In his race against Michelle Nunn — who said she would have backed the Senate bill — Perdue took a hard line, and talked up the impact of mass immigration on American jobs. That stance likely helped shield him from Democrats’ portrayal of him as a heartless outsourcer of American jobs.
Perdue started the race with a 1.5 percent advantage, over six polls, against his Democratic rival.
In Arkansas, Republican Rep. Tom Cotton also used the immigration issue to trounce incumbent Mark Pryor, who backed the bill. In his state, 49 percent of voters said illegals should repatriated, and three quarters of them voted for Cotton.
Cotton also won almost half of the 46 percent who said illegals should be allowed to stay. Cotton won three-quarters of the votes from the 13 percent of voters who said immigration is the most important issue.
Cotton started the race one point ahead of Pryor, according to an RealClearPolitics’ average of the first six polls.
In Louisiana, Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu won only 40 percent of the vote, likely dooming her chances in the December runoff.
In Kansas, GOP Sen. Pat Roberts won seven-tenths of the 14 percent who said immigration is the most important issue. That helped him pull well ahead of his rival, who was 10 points ahead of him in mid-September.
Several GOP candidates won by sidestepping the amnesty and immigration issue.
In Colorado, Rep. Cory Gardner straddled the issue by offering some sympathy to Latino’s concerned about the issue, without promising to back an amnesty.
In Iowa, immigration was deemed the top issue by only 10 percent of people, and they voted four-to-one in favor of GOP winner Joni Ernst, who largely ignored the issue.
But she also won with the aid of three-quarters of 42 percent of voters who say illegals should be “deported to the country they came from” and three-tenths of the 51 percent who said illegals should be offered a chance to apply for legal status.”
Pro-American reformers did lose in New Hampshire, where Scott Brown’s New Hampshire campaign was helped by his focus on immigration, but not enough to topple long-standing incumbent, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen.
Forty percent of voters said illegals should be deported, while 56 percent of the voters said illegals should be offered a chance to stay in the United States, according to the exit polls.
Brown won three-quarters of the 40 percent, and only one-quarter of the 56 percent.
Still, former Massachusetts resident Brown used the issue to help close a 10 point gap to just two points, despite running against a popular female ex-governor who made few mistakes in her race.
Fourteen percent of N.H. voters said immigration was the most important issue in the race.
Many other polls show lopsided opposition to amnesty, especially when swing voters are asked to say if companies should be required to hire Americans rather than legal immigrants. In several polls, roughly 50 percent of Americans strongly opposed Obama’s immigration policies, while roughly 15 percent strongly supported his policies.
In the House, the growing clout of amnesty opposition was highlighted by the election in Virginia of Dave Brat.
Brat took over the absent seat formerly held by Majority Leader Eric Cantor, who lost his June primary amid voters’ worries that Cantor would support amnesty.