All this loose talk of the president "winning" the shutdown isn't wrong, but it does overstate what happened. None of the Republicans who "lost" needs to change his response to Obama in any way. The poll movements of the past two weeks were devastating, but experience (from 1995–1996) suggests that the party's generic ratings can recover quickly. Yesterday and today, when the president's gone on TV to praise the deal or announce next steps, Republicans and their staffers have scoffed.
Case in point: Obama's remarks this morning, suggesting that the end of shutdown politics meant there was time to pivot back to immigration.
"There's already a broad coalition across America that’s behind this effort of comprehensive immigration reform—from business leaders to faith leaders to law enforcement," he said. In fact, the Senate has already passed a bill, and "economists estimate that if that bill becomes law, our economy would be 5 percent larger two decades from now. That’s $1.4 trillion in new economic growth."
Whoopty-doo, say Republicans. When I asked South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, one of the "Gang of Eight" behind the bill, what the impasse and resolution meant for immigration reform, he chuckled, then said it didn't make him optimistic, exactly. Yesterday, when asked by Breitbart.com whether immigration policy might return to the agenda, former House immigration reformer Raul Labrador did more then chuckle.
"Absolutely not," said Labrador. "I think it would be crazy for the House leadership to enter into negotiations with him. He's trying to destroy the Republican Party, not to get good policies. I don't see how he would in good faith negotiate with us on immigration."
Labrador, like many other House Republicans, argues that the shutdown and the one-year delay of Obamacare's employer mandate prove that the president would only pass immigration reform in bad faith. Would he also "delay" the enforcement mechanisms of the immigration law? Who knows? Would his border agents choose which laws to enforce the way his Park Police did? The question must be asked!
Democrats, who are also reeling from the psychic shock of shutdown, are going to try to argue that this is crazy.
"The American public wants us to do immigration reform," said Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine. "This has been a delay for a couple of weeks, but in some ways, there's a cost to stonewalling and delaying. We've seen it here. That lesson could be drawn in the immigration debate as well."