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Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Top Democrats tell Axios they're worried that a sudden wave of ambitious party members calling for the abolition of ICE — U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which is newly controversial because of the detained kids — will make the party look weak on security, a key issue for many swing voters.

Between the lines: These Dems fear the phrase makes them an easy target for conservatives who accuse Democrats of wanting "open borders."

  • The issue is getting traction after this week's surprise upset by 28-year-old Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who made "Abolish ICE" a central tenet of her campaign against Rep. Joe Crowley, who had been the king of Queens.
  • Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) became the first sitting senator to say the U.S. should "get rid of" ICE: "start over. Build something that actually works."
  • New York Mayor Bill de Blasio tweeted yesterday: "ICE is broken, it’s divisive and it should be abolished."
  • A few other more progressive Democratic candidates have adopted the anti-ICE messaging, including Cynthia Nixon, running for New York governor, and Matt Haggman, a running for Florida's 27th congressional district.

Be smart: "Abolish ICE" is the perfect antithesis to Trump's "Build a wall": It represents an entire immigration ideology in one simple phrase that resonates with their base.

  • The phrase has started spiking on Google Trends, mostly in D.C., New York, and along the West Coast.
  • But a Trump tweet this morning showed how easy the issue will be to demagogue: "To the great and brave men and women of ICE, do not worry or lose your spirit. You are doing a fantastic job of keeping us safe by eradicating the worst criminal elements. So brave! The radical left Dems want you out. Next it will be all police. Zero chance, It will never happen!"

Celinda Lake, longtime Democratic pollster, told Axios: "I worry that abolishing ICE tips the issues from humane treatment to security. The Republicans are already trying to move the issue in that direction."

  • Lake added: "Voters believe we need some enforcement of border security — not just for immigration, but for security. I wish we were pushing this to: 'We need comprehensive immigration reform.'"

Republicans are rejoicing at the notion of a new litmus test for Democrats, especially ones who have presidential ambitions in 2020.

  • Alex Castellanos, longtime adviser to top Republicans, said Dems are making the mistake his own party made after losing to Barack Obama: "[W]e became so weak, marginalizing ourselves to such an extreme, that an outsider business guy who had never run for office before, extinguished us all."
  • "That’s the danger for the Dems now. They are marginalizing themselves as they race against each other to win the gold medal for anti-Trump extremism. If they are not careful, some Silicon Valley billionaire, outsider — probably a woman — could clean all their clocks and steal their party right out from under them."

Where the debate is going ... A well-known Democratic strategist told Axios: "'Abolish' alone could be a political disaster, akin to Trump’s gutting the [Affordable Care Act] is for Republicans. … It suggests that Dem concern for undocumented immigrants goes beyond compassion andinto irresponsibility."

  • The strategist's prescription: "If Democrats propose to repeal and replace, that could work. ... Replace it with an interior enforcement agency that goes back to cracking down on real criminals and respects civil liberties. That could be a substantive and political winner."

Go deeper: The left's push to #AbolishICE

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Go deeper

Complaint to FTC: Amazon search results full of potentially deceiving ads

Photo: Nigel Kirby/Loop Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Amazon does not sufficiently distinguish between its search results and paid ads, potentially "deceiving millions of consumers," according to a complaint filed to the Federal Trade Commission.

Why it matters: Joan Moriarty, research director for the Strategic Organizing Center, a coalition of labor unions that filed the complaint, told the Washington Post the group is "very hopeful" that the FTC will investigate the complaint because Lina Khan (D), a known Amazon critic, is now chair.

3 hours ago - Health

Pfizer-BioNTech: Booster doses more effective at blocking Omicron

Prepared doses of the BioNtech-Pfizer Covid-19 coronavirus vaccine in Germany on Dec. 7. Photo: Thomas Kienzle/AFP via Getty Images

Pfizer and BioNTech said Wednesday that two doses of their COVID-19 vaccine were significantly less effective at neutralizing the Omicron variant in early lab tests, but a three-dose regimen was more effective.

Why it matters: Omicron, which has been labeled a variant of concern by the World Health Organization after being identified by scientists in South Africa last month, has forced vaccine makers to reassess the effectiveness of their vaccines against this specific new form of coronavirus.

Mike Allen, author of AM
3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Biden unveils "Building a Better America" branding

President Biden speaks on infrastructure while visiting a bridge in Woodstock, N.H., last month. Photo: John Tully/Getty Images

President Biden today launched a new website and unveiled bold new branding as part of a nationwide tour to sell the benefits of his infrastructure package.

Why it matters: The White House says passage of the new law shows the ability to "forge bipartisan consensus and prove our democracy can deliver big wins" even in these toxic times.