Republican Candidates' Hardline Immigration Views Get Top Billing in Midterm Campaign Ads

House GOP candidates are using ongoing debates about illegal immigration to launch their campaigns into the spotlight, making the divisive issue a centerpiece of their 2018 bids for office in hopes of winning over those who support the president and his administration's crackdown.

According to an exclusive report from USA Today, Republican candidates have already aired more than 14,000 television ads featuring their hardline stances on immigration, many of which use typical Trumpian rhetoric to make their point.

"I'll end sanctuary cities to stop illegals from taking our jobs … and use conservative grit to build the darn wall," Troy Balderson, an Ohio congressional candidate, said in a campaign ad last month.

Some political strategists say the message will play well with the GOP's core base, while others worry that taking such a definitive stand on immigration issues could pay off big in primary elections, but flop in a general.

"Just about every survey I've seen shows that among Republican primary voters, immigration is one of the most important issues, if not the most important," Brian Murray, an Arizona-based Republican consultant, told USA Today. "I don't see immigration going away as an issue."

On the other side there's Frank Luntz, a longtime Republican pollster, who warned that most of the American public doesn't share the views of GOP primary voters.

"It puts them in a position that the general public will not agree with," Luntz said of the danger of Republican candidates coming on too strong with anti-immigration policies and rhetoric. The ongoing gridlock over the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy could also cast immigration hardliner candidates in a negative light, as voters could associate them with the reason there hasn't been any action on the issue in Congress.

"If it looks like it's Republicans holding up an agreement (in Congress), they'll get hurt on Election Day," Luntz added.

Democrats, meanwhile, have been focusing most heavily on health care, opposition to President Donald Trump and social issues, according to USA Today's analysis, typically lumping immigration issues in with a larger message on diversity and inclusion.

A growing—but still relatively small—number of Democratic candidates have tackled the immigration issue by calling to abolish U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), a once-radical position that has become increasingly popular as ICE arrests surge under Trump.

"Any American who's concerned with due process should be concerned with ICE," Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a first-time female candidate running in New York's 14th district, told Newsweek last month. "Calling to abolish ICE is less radical than the establishment of ICE in the first place."

But if the Democratic Party as a whole doesn't coalesce around a strong message in favor of immigrant rights and push forward a solution for DACA recipients, it could cost Democrats key seats in battleground states where immigration issues touch the lives of hundreds of thousands of people.

Some Democrats say Latino immigrants have tired of the party's broken promises on DACA, and want to feel that Democrats will fight for them in Congress.

"They've been promised this for I don't know how long," Nevada Democratic Representative Dina Titus told Newsweek in February. "They feel betrayed by Republicans and disillusioned by Democrats."