...[F]or most Republicans standing in the way of reform, the issue is a primary challenge and not a general election challenge.First, that seems like a reasonable analysis. My addition to it would be that one might argue that the off-year is particularly dangerous for an issue on which the big problem is nomination challenges, because that's when potential challengers decide whether to run or not. So there might be a brief post-election window that's safe right at the beginning of a new Congress (that is, this time around, in winter-spring 2013), but then it gets more and more difficult up to the point where filing deadlines pass. Which is a large spread, since congressional primaries are spread out from spring to September...filing deadlines are as early as December 2013, and are done or almost done by mid-June.
If for a good chunk of those congressmen, their main disincentive is a primary challenge while their true preference is for immigration reform to pass either out of personal conviction or because of their assessment of the GOP's future, then the most opportune time for a vote would be after primary season either before or after the general election.
So my question is this. What do you think of this theory and what do you think of the chances of immigration reform in general?
I'd add that we've had a pretty steady run of lame duck, post-election Congressional sessions lately; presumably, immigration might do even better in a lame duck session, with defeated or retiring Republicans perhaps willing to vote for (perceived) party benefit instead of their own electoral self-interest.
As far as the chances for comprehensive immigration reform? I don't know. Most, but not all, reporters on the Hill seem to think it's dead or almost dead. That could be true. On the other hand, I really wouldn't place all that much importance on John Boehner's promise that it won't pass on a "Hastert" violation. It makes sense that he would say that; however, if the bulk of his caucus wants the bill to pass (even if they don't want to vote for it), then he'll bring it up and have it pass with mostly Democratic votes, and he won't suffer for it.
So the question really is, and always has been, whether mainstream House Republicans want the bill to pass or not, in a situation in which almost everyone believes that (1) it would be good for the GOP as a whole for it to pass, but (2) it would be risky for most Republican Members of the House to support it. And with GOP-aligned organized interests split. But that's as far as I can go from the outside; I really don't have a guess about what eventually happens.