President Barack Obama flies into Texas Wednesday on a political trip that could go a long way in determining whether the Latino vote can be fired up to help turn the Lone Star State Democratic blue this fall and beyond.
But Texas and its ever-increasing Latino vote are at a crossroads on which both Democrats and Republicans are trying to capitalize.
Obama will be in Texas primarily to attend private Democratic fundraisers in Dallas and Austin and to bolster State Senator Wendy Davis quixotic but underdog gubernatorial campaign.
The presidents visit, however, comes at a critical political moment in the state.
The recent influx of children trying to enter the U.S. illegally along the border has ratcheted up the immigration reform issue, and Obama has no plans to visit the border — the site of the crisis — a decision that has even some Democrats worried.
I hope this doesn’t become the Katrina moment for President Obama, saying that he doesn’t need to come to the border, said a clearly concerned Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, whose district extends from the Rio Grande at the border to the suburbs of San Antonio.
He should come down.
The quickly escalating border crisis has left thousands of unaccompanied children in shelters and sparked angry protests throughout the country.
On Tuesday the White House responded to the growing crisis by asking Congress for $3.7 billion to beef up border security and cope with the influx of unaccompanied children crossing into the United States illegally.
While in Texas, Obama will discuss the crisis along the border with Gov. Texas Gov. Rick Perry in a meeting packed with political implications.
Perry, a potential 2016 Republican presidential candidate, has been critical of Obamas handling of the situation on the border, while the president has been trying to play down the public perception that he will be raising money on this trip rather than visiting the border.
But Obama and Democrats have been eyeing Texas as one of the seven states where Latinos make up at least 20 percent of the population and account for 153 of the 270 electoral votes needed for election in 2016.
Earlier this year Joe Holley, political editor of the Houston Chronicle, looked over his states increasing Latino numbers and concluded that, This is sort of, in kind of a quirky way, the second Texas Revolution. And this time, the Mexicans are going to win.
But only if they can fire up Latino voters to register and then to vote.
That could be important not only for Wendy Davis campaign but also for who controls Congress, not to mention setting up Democrats in the 2016 national campaign.
On the other side, the political battle over the influx of young migrants into South Texas isnt necessarily a political panacea for Republicans as it has forced the actual GOP position on immigration out into the open.
By explicitly claiming that Obamas Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals has caused the current crisis by creating a promise of amnesty for children, Republicans have put themselves in a position effectively calling for deportation of the DREAMers and locked the GOP into a stance of supporting maximum deportations.
A top-level Texas Democrat says that is exactly the gambit the presidents trip to the state hopes to play in what has become a political chess match.
The president has identified this is a humanitarian crisis, said the Texas Democrat, a national party committee member who asked not to be quoted by name. Its the Republicans who have made it a political issue, and that is a critical mistake.
This was also the point made in a new poll conducted by Latino Decisions that found that support for Democrats among Latino voters in 2014 — and consequently Democrats overall fortunes in 2014 — depends heavily on how Obama handles immigration.
Look for the president to take his next step in that direction possibly in Texas, the Democratic National Committee member intimated.
Look for President Obama to soon announce allowing undocumented immigrants to renew their (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) requests, the Texas Democrat said.
The Latino electorate expects and wants deferred action extended, and the president plans to do just that.