Democratic operatives are sharply divided on the political fallout from the intervention by Department of Justice lawsuit against the controversial Arizona immigration law, according to this week’s National Journal Political Insiders Poll.

When the Political Insiders were asked, “on balance” whether they thought “the Justice Department’s legal challenge to Arizona’s immigration law helps or hurts your party in the midterm elections,” 49 percent of the 103 Democratic Insiders who responded to the survey said it would hurt the party on Nov. 2. At the same time, 42 percent said it would help the party and another 10 percent volunteered equivocal responses, saying it would both help and hurt, wouldn’t have an impact, or would be a neutral factor in the elections.

Conversely, of the 97 GOP Insiders who responded this week, an overwhelming 94 percent said that it would help their party. A tiny four percent said the issue would hurt and two percent gave equivocal responses.

The arguments that Democratic Insiders generally made in favor of the DOJ challenge is that it would it would help motivate Hispanics, an important part of the Democratic base, to go the polls in November and that Republicans were likely to alienate Hispanics by defending the Arizona statute.

Several Democrats who felt the DOJ move would likely hurt the party said that it only highlighted a wedge issue that the White House and Congressional Democrats had failed to fix and it was a distraction from more the paramount issue this year, the economy.
But some Democrats who said that issue would be a negative in the midterms also agreed that the challenge to the law would pay long-term benefits. “Short term, it hurts,” said one Democratic Insider. “Long term it is another nail in the Republican’s demographic coffin.”

Republican Insiders said that the Justice Department action smacked of legal over-reach and would alienate independent and swing voters in districts where Democratic incumbents are already under siege. But even though they saw the issue as a plus for this November, a few GOP Insiders worried about how the immigration debate would play out down the road. As one GOP Insiders put it, “The longer Republicans stand behind a plan of “border security first,” the further we move away from Hispanics.”

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