Immigration Ruling Likely To Have Limited Impact on Presidential Race

Court's immigration ruling likely to have limited election impact.

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The Supreme Court decision to gut most of the Arizona immigration law but let stand for now the measure's most controversial provision, which allows law enforcement officials to ask for proof of citizenship, has left supporters and detractors touting victory.

The ruling Monday will keep the spotlight on immigration reform for at least a few more days. In a statement released by the White House, President Barack Obama said he was "pleased" with the court's ruling but struck a warning about the "practical impact" of the 'paper's please' provision.

"No American should ever live under a cloud of suspicion just because of what they look like," Obama said. "Going forward, we must ensure that Arizona law enforcement officials do not enforce this law in a manner that undermines the civil rights of Americans, as the Court's decision recognizes."

[Obama defends immigration action, takes on Romney.]

Obama also said he plans on continuing to enforce immigration laws by focusing on border security and criminals rather than focus on young people brought illegally into the country through no fault of their own, reflecting the policy his administration recently announced.

Mitt Romney, Obama's Republican rival, said the ruling "underscores the need for a president who will lead on this critical issue and work in a bipartisan fashion to pursue a national immigration strategy."

But Romney, who claimed Arizona's law should be a model for the country while campaigning for the GOP primary, did not comment on the fact that most of the measure was ruled unconstitutional. Instead, he took a swipe at Obama for failing to provide leadership on immigration.

"I believe that each state has the duty--and the right--to secure our borders and preserve the rule of law, particularly when the federal government has failed to meet its responsibilities," Romney said in a statement. "As 'Candidate Obama,' he promised to present an immigration plan during his first year in office. But four years later, we are still waiting."

Many in the Hispanic community have also been critical of the president's failure to live up to that promise, something GOP officials have been quick to point out and may have been a factor in the administration's decision to ease deportations of some young illegal immigrants.

[Read: Romney faces a tough test on immigration.]

Hispanics are considered a key voting demographic by both the Romney and Obama campaigns. Obama won 67 percent of the Latino vote in 2008 and would like to add to the margin in 2012 and Romney hopes to reduce the lopsided margin by focusing mostly on pocketbook issues, which Hispanics – like all voters – say is their top concern.

Political observers say the existing political dynamic on immigration will continue.

"Since neither side is a complete winner that means neither side is a complete loser either and it means it's a little more difficult to motivate your base," says Andy Smith, political science professor at the University of New Hampshire. "It doesn't seem to me that it's going to have that big of an impact because most of the states where it's being talked about are states that are going to be strongly Republican or strongly Democratic anyway. Do you think Arizona is going to go Democratic this year? Probably not. Will this issue make a difference in how it's going to go? Probably not."

Rusty Silverstein, managing director of legal crisis communications at Hamilton Place Strategies, says the ruling does put pressure on Romney given his vocal support of the law.

"This puts Romney in a bit of an uncomfortable position, where he's on record supporting a law where a large part of it is now deemed to be unconstitutional and he even said it should be a model throughout the country," he says. But Silverstein adds that the mixed bag ruling will help motivate partisans on both sides of the issue.

"The fact that part of it is allowed to go forward will I think mobilize a lot of Latino officials and I think it will breathe new life into an issue that has subsided from public consciousness," he says. "It may also help to fire up some of Romney's base."