Networks Fear Immigration Reform 'Dead' After Cantor Loss, ABC Urges Obama 'Act On His Own'

After Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor's stunning primary defeat Tuesday night, the broadcast networks Wednesday morning wrung their hands over the loss and fretted that immigration reform, which Cantor supported, was doomed. On NBC's Today, political director Chuck Todd declared: "...this, by the way, means immigration reform during the rest of the Obama presidency, the idea that it's gonna happen, is dead. It is not going to happen in 2016." [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]

Co-host Savannah Guthrie worried: "Is anything going to happen? I mean, I guess the question is whether Republicans will be so spooked by someone in such a strong position of leadership being vulnerable that they won't want to compromise even one bit." Todd replied: "They're going to be afraid to do anything the rest of this legislative cycle. Anybody that might be facing a primary, no matter how underfunded their challenge, forget it. I think legislating is done."

On ABC's Good Morning America, correspondent Jonathan Karl announced: "The thing that will most affect the White House will be immigration reform. The President had hoped to get it passed in Congress this year. Now, it is almost certainly dead."

Co-host George Stephanopoulos responded: "So that's gonna put a lot more pressure on the President to act on his own, to do something about undocumented immigrants and those deportations." Karl predicted: "No question that he is going to do something on that....Now, there is no reason to hold back. I'm sure this White House will act fairly soon."

Voicing the same concerns over the Obama administration agenda item on CBS This Morning, co-host Norah O'Donnell noted: "A top Republican said to me last night this means immigration reform is 100% dead."

Political director John Dickerson observed that "fear of a challenger is what keeps members of Congress nervous and from doing anything bold or different than what their constituents want."

That's generally the point of a representative democracy.

Turning to Republican pollster Frank Luntz, O'Donnell wondered: "If immigration reform is dead, totally dead, what does it mean for Republican Party's efforts to regain a standing with Hispanic voters?" Luntz argued:

It's going to be very tough. When Mitt Romney used the phrase "self-deportation," that was the end for a lot of Latinos. And the challenge now for the GOP is to be able to appeal – also, it's not just the Latinos, it's middle-age women in suburbs who see how the Republicans relate to these other groups and that's how they decide, does the GOP care about them?

Moments later, Dickerson asserted: "In 2016, what will be interesting is what are the tests that show that you are a candidate of principle. And there will be a real fight to show 'I am more principled than you are,' and that tends to push parties to their most extreme areas because everybody's trying to be more principled than the other."

Luntz bemoaned such a development:

And that's part of what Americans are fed up with. I think this is such a great loss, not just for Virginia, but for the country. Eric Cantor had the ability to negotiate. Eric Cantor had the ability to sit toe to toe and make concessions and make agreements. And maybe that hurt him in the primary, but that's exactly what we need in Washington and now we're losing him.


Here are excerpts of the June 11 morning show coverage:

Today
7:06 AM ET

(...)

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: And it's not just about Eric Cantor. I mean, this is gonna have broad implications in the political world. There had been so much talk this election season that maybe the Tea Party had finally lost its umph. It hadn't been able to unseat major establishment candidates. And here we go, seeing something that has literally never happened before in the history of our nation. Does this show the Tea Party's still got it?

CHUCK TODD: Well, it shows you that there's an issue that the Tea Party can grab on to. It used to be the debt, then it was health care, now it's immigration. And I think that's what people need to be careful with. Don't just throw this under the umbrella of Tea Party. This is about immigration and this, by the way, means immigration reform during the rest of the Obama presidency, the idea that it's gonna happen, is dead. It is not going to happen in 2016.

GUTHRIE: And very quickly on that, is anything going to happen? I mean, I guess the question is whether Republicans will be so spooked by someone in such a strong position of leadership being vulnerable that they won't want to compromise even one bit.

TODD: I think the new mascot of the establishment wing of the Republican Party is going to be the turtle. I think you're going to see a whole bunch of these guys retreat into their shells like turtles. They're going to be afraid to do anything the rest of this legislative cycle. Anybody that might be facing a primary, no matter how underfunded their challenge, forget it. I think legislating is done.

(...)

Good Morning America
7:03 AM ET

(...)

JONATHAN KARL: There will be much fallout from Cantor's defeat. But the thing that will most affect the White House will be immigration reform. The President had hoped to get it passed in Congress this year. Now, it is almost certainly dead. George, after watching Cantor go down in flames, Republican leaders in Congress are not gonna want to touch that issue for a long time.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Yeah, that legislation is not gonna happen, Jon, right now. So that's gonna put a lot more pressure on the President to act on his own, to do something about undocumented immigrants and those deportations.

KARL: No question that he is going to do something on that. He had been holding back doing something with executive action because he didn't want to upset the possibility of passing it in Congress. Now, there is no reason to hold back. I'm sure this White House will act fairly soon.

(...)

CBS This Morning
7:07 AM ET

(...)

NORAH O'DONNELL: This has huge implications, John. A top Republican said to me last night this means immigration reform is 100% dead. Is that how you see it?

JOHN DICKERSON: Yes. Although it was 99.5% dead because even before this, you had a lot of – you know, in February I talked to a House leadership aide and they said, "Look, you know, the Chamber of Commerce wants immigration reform, lobbyists want immigration reform, but they can't primary a member of Congress." And what they were saying essentially is they don't have the power that the grassroots has to put a challenger up against a sitting member of Congress. And that fear of a challenger is what keeps members of Congress nervous and from doing anything bold or different than what their constituents want.

Well, that was the fear in February. Now we've even seen a race where even if you've got the power and the money of the majority leader and you've been in Congress for seven terms, you can still get walloped by a grassroots candidate. And this was a true grassroots candidate, he wasn't just propped up by a bunch of elites claiming to speak for the Tea Party. This was a person who grew right out of that district.

CHARLIE ROSE: Alright, so what does it mean for the Republican Party and for President Obama after the midterm elections?

FRANK LUNTZ: Well, you had Eric Cantor who had a very good relationship with Joe Biden, had open lines of communication. I think for the GOP it's going to be very dangerous now for Republicans to talk to Democrats, as it was for Democrats to talk to Republicans a few years ago. That this is a blow for conversation, this is a blow for some sort of cooperation. And I think it's bad for the country, not just bad for the Republicans.

O'DONNELL: But I'm curious about what it means, though, for the midterms and for the 2016 presidential race. If immigration reform is dead, totally dead, what does it mean for Republican Party's efforts to regain a standing with Hispanic voters?

LUNTZ: It's going to be very tough. When Mitt Romney used the phrase "self-deportation," that was the end for a lot of Latinos. And the challenge now for the GOP is to be able to appeal – also, it's not just the Latinos, it's middle-age women in suburbs who see how the Republicans relate to these other groups and that's how they decide, does the GOP care about them?

(...)

JOHN DICKERSON: I mean, members of Congress and those who are running in 2016 are going to take lessons from this too. And the lesson is do not get too far from what your base wants. And so I think, to Norah's question-

ROSE: That's not a new lesson.

DICKERSON: No, it's not a new lesson, but some people got two or three feet away. Now it's going to be two or three inches at best....In 2016, what will be interesting is what are the tests that show that you are a candidate of principle. And there will be a real fight to show "I am more principled than you are," and that tends to push parties to their most extreme areas because everybody's trying to be more principled than the other. And that's part of what caught Mitt Romney up in the primaries last time around.

LUNTZ: And that's part of what Americans are fed up with. I think this is such a great loss, not just for Virginia, but for the country. Eric Cantor had the ability to negotiate. Eric Cantor had the ability to sit toe to toe and make concessions and make agreements. And maybe that hurt him in the primary, but that's exactly what we need in Washington and now we're losing him.

(...)

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC