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Is immigration reform Bush's last hurrah?

Story Highlights

• President Bush voiced support for immigration deal announced this week
• Lame-duck status, low popularity mean legislative successes less likely
• Immigration debate will be test of the president's political influence
By Bill Schneider
CNN Senior Political Analyst
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- What's the political significance of immigration reform for President Bush?

It may be the last chance for this president to get a major piece of legislation passed.

"I really am anxious to sign a comprehensive immigration bill as soon as I possibly can," he said. (Watch President Bush voice his support for the bill Video)

Immigration reform is likely to be his last hurrah, what with the 2008 presidential campaign already under way. Moreover, a president whose approval rating is in the 30s has lost the confidence of the country.

Ironically, this week the president met with another leader who has lost the confidence of his country and for the same reason -- Iraq. A British reporter asked Bush whether Tony Blair was the right man to be talking to.

"It's interesting, like you're trying to do a tap dance on his political grave, aren't you?" Bush replied.

When British leaders lose the confidence of their country, they can be replaced by their own party. Margaret Thatcher was replaced by John Major in 1990. Britain's governing Labour Party just voted to replace Blair with Gordon Brown. And move on.

The United States has midterm elections. As a result of last year's midterm, Bush now has to share power with Democrats -- just as President Bill Clinton had to share power with Republicans after the 1994 midterm. And fight to regain his influence.

"The president is still relevant here," Clinton said in 1995.

Is Bush still relevant? Immigration reform will be the test. It will be a tough test, even in the president's own party.

"There are a lot of people upset at every one of the senators who think they put together a good compromise but will be viewed as a sell-out," said Rep. Brian Bilbray, R-California.

Democratic leaders don't sound terribly eager to hand the president a victory.

"I think there is a 50-50 chance that the negotiators can come up with something that will be the beginning point for negotiations," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada.

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Senate negotiators are working on an immigration compromise in which border security would precede measures on citizenship and a guest-worker program.



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