Obama's Puzzling Immigration Decision By Sean Trende - June 19, 2012

Excerpts only:

...the decision will probably wind up a net negative for the president. Three points in particular stand out:

1) Latinos are underrepresented in swing states. While the Latino vote is frequently portrayed as a critical voting bloc, in truth it is concentrated in only a few swing states with just a handful of electoral votes. The only states where Latinos make up more than 10 percent of the electorate are: Arizona (16 percent of the electorate in 2008 ), California (18 percent), Colorado (13 percent), Florida (14 percent), Nevada (15 percent), New Mexico (41 percent), and Texas (20 percent).

Of these, only Colorado, Florida, and Nevada are swing states; New Mexico and Arizona are at best borderline swing states. In Florida, the Latino vote largely (though decreasingly) comprises voters of Cuban descent and is therefore atypical of other Latino electorates.

So in the end, we’re talking about Colorado and Nevada as the states where this is likely to produce dividends of any size, for a total of 15 electoral votes.

2) There is a trade-off here. Fifteen electoral votes could still be crucial in a close election. But here’s the rub: The analyses that focus only on the potential effect among Latino voters miss half of the equation: The potential effect among white voters.

I’ve made this point before, but consider the case of Arizona. For many liberal commentators, the silver lining to the state’s immigration bill was that it presaged the eventual death of the state’s Republican Party. By alienating Latino voters, Republicans would soon find it impossible to forge winning coalitions in the state.
Obama has ongoing weaknesses with working-class white voters. So weak, in fact, that they threatened his presidential bid during the Democratic perfect storm of 2008.
3) Latinos aren’t monolithic. Finally, I think it’s important to remember that Latino voters’ views on immigration aren’t uniform, and that just as there’s a ceiling on the Republican share of this vote, there’s probably something of a floor. (Harry Enten provides some good analysis here.)

I’d just add that in 2008, only 69 percent of Latino voters described illegal immigration as “very” or “extremely” important to them in exit polls. Of these, nearly one-third voted Republican, suggesting that a near-majority of Latinos either thought that illegal immigration wasn’t an important issue, or thought it was and voted Republican anyway.

Remember also that on several controversial ballot issues in California, which supposedly cost Republicans their competitiveness in the state (notwithstanding the fact that the Republican share of the Latino vote in California has been stable since 1988 ), large portions of the Latino community cast votes that were directly opposed to what is broadly considered their “interest” on immigration issues. Even Jan Brewer managed to win almost 30 percent of the Latino vote.

In short, it’s not really clear what Obama’s tack on immigration really accomplishes, politically speaking. It probably will result in minimal gains among Latino voters, in states with only a few electoral votes. But what it costs him could easily offset those gains, and then some.