This article on President Bush's immigration reform proposal and its possible effects on Hispanic voters contains good news and bad news for both major parties.
Many political analysts who watched the president unveil his immigration reform package said it was clearly aimed at the Hispanic community.
"There is absolutely no doubt that one of the reasons for this is to attract the Latino vote for President Bush," said Jorge Gonzalez, an expert on illegal immigration and chairman of the Economics Department at Trinity University in San Antonio.
"He needs to get about 40 percent of the Latino vote in the next election, and Latinos in general are in favor of a more relaxed immigration policy," he explained.
Gonzalez said that even though Latinos are skeptical that immigration reform can be accomplished, Bush is charting a path in territory once owned by Democrats.
And Democrats should be worried that a portion of its base "is slipping away," Gonzalez said.
Many of the proposals sought by Bush — including a guest worker program that allows undocumented immigrants to remain in this country legally — are strenuously opposed by many lawmakers in the president's party.
"Gradual amnesty for illegal aliens rewards those who have broken the law and encourages more illegal immigration," said Rep. Lamar Smith, R-San Antonio, a member of the House Judiciary subcommittee on immigration.
Cecilia Muñoz, vice president for policy at the National Council of La Raza, said Bush might score points with independent swing voters and Latinos without suffering a backlash from social conservatives, who have no where else to go.
"It is smart for the White House to stand up to the xenophobes in the party to impress Latino voters," Muñoz said, "because I don't think the xenophobes are going to vote for Howard Dean."
The president's step to the middle of the political spectrum will have a backlash only if the independent swing voters and Latinos perceive that Bush's offering is an empty promise, Gonzalez said.
A poll released last week shows more than half of Hispanics nationwide think Bush is doing a good job.
But the poll for the Pew Hispanic Center also found that 47 percent of Latino adults surveyed said they would vote for a Democrat, while only 37 percent preferred Bush.
The pollsters emphasized that the surveyed queried Hispanic adults and not Hispanic probable voters.
"If Bush does not deliver on immigration reform, this could be a good issue for a Democratic candidate to take him on," Gonzalez said.
"It won't be hard for a Democrat to tell Latinos that President Bush promised this in 2000 and didn't deliver. And promised this in 2004 and didn't deliver," Gonzalez said.
A 2004 presidential straw poll conducted at [the Muslim Public Affairs Council]'s annual convention showed President George W. Bush trailing four Democratic contenders, led by Howard Dean, largely because of the former Vermont governor's staunch criticism of the war in Iraq.
Dr. Dean polled 67 percent, followed by Rep. Dennis Kucinich with 17 percent, retired Gen. Wesley Clark with 8 percent, and Sen. John Kerry with 4 percent. Mr. Bush garnered a meager 2 percent of the straw ballots cast by the 800 Muslims at the late December convention held in Long Beach, Calif. Not even a convention appearance by the White House's Muslim liaison, Ali Tulbah, appeared to help.
Mr. Bush's dismal showing came less than four years after MPAC joined other leading American Muslim groups in issuing their first-ever presidential endorsement: the Republican Bush. But then came the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, all of which has impacted immensely the political fortunes, and thinking, of American Muslims.
In the current climate, "90 percent of the community is now dead set against the Republican Party, not to mention Bush," said the Los Angeles-based Al-Marayati, who backed Bill Clinton before switching parties in 2000.
Even Muslim Republican activists say Mr. Bush has little hope of repeating his 2000 success among Muslims.
"I hate to say it," said Khalid Saffuri, who runs the Islamic Institute, a Republican support group in Washington, "but right now very few Muslims will vote for George Bush again, or support the Republican Party. They're that angry."