As the bipartisan immigration bill was breaking down in the Senate, I asked Democratic Sen. Ted Kennedy, who was standing with the Republicans he had worked with, if his own Democratic party leaders had held up immigration to try to use the potent issue against the GOP during this fall's elections.
He laughed sheepishly, and then quipped, "Ask John McCain, my spokesman."
Well, earlier, Republican Sen. John McCain told me (and anyone who would listen) he did think Democratic leaders made a political calculation not to pass a bill putting millions of illegal immigrants on a path to U.S. citizenship. Why?
Because Democratic political strategists knew hundreds of thousands of people were getting ready to march across the country just three days later to express outrage at the GOP over a House bill that would make illegal immigrants felons. Republicans say Democrats didn't want to pass something marchers would like, because it could diminish the impact of the long-planned protests aimed at the GOP.
Democrats insist that's not the reason they let the Senate agreement stall, but a few told me it was an "added benefit."
There is one thing Democrats and Republicans agree on: The massive demonstrations are proof the Hispanic community has exploded into a political force to be reckoned with.
There has been bipartisan awe at what the marchers pulled off. Through Hispanic radio, churches, and word of mouth, organizers were able to stage demonstrations the likes of which veteran political operatives work their whole careers to engineer. And both sides agree the Hispanic vote, which is the fastest growing minority group, is up for grabs, and that the immigration debate will dictate where many Hispanics fall.
Grover Norquist, a Bush ally, put it in stark terms: "If the Republican Party maintains its competitive position with the Hispanic vote -- 40 percent and more -- it will govern America for the next 50 years. If it falls to a low percentage of the Hispanic vote, it won't."