The November surprise?***

THE NOVEMBER SURPRISE?…. Apparently, the political story of the day is about the residency status of Barack Obama’s half-aunt, a Kenyan woman named Zeituni Onyango, who has been living in public housing in Boston despite having a U.S. immigration judge deny her asylum request four years ago.

This is fascinating because … well, actually I have no idea why anyone would find this even remotely interesting.

What is interesting, however, is how this story came to the public’s attention.

Information about the deportation case was disclosed and confirmed by two separate sources, one a federal law enforcement official. The information they made available is known to officials in the federal government, but the AP could not establish whether anyone at a political level in the Bush administration or in the McCain campaign had been involved in its release. […]

A spokeswoman for U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, Kelly Nantel, said the government does not comment on an individual’s citizenship status or immigration case.

No, but the government does illegally leak information about an individual’s citizenship status or immigration case when administration officials decide it might influence a presidential election.

As Josh Marshall put it, “Quite likely working in concert with the McCain campaign, a Bush administration official is leaking details on an immigration case to try to help McCain three days before the election…. Note too that the story first got leaked to the Times of London, a Murdoch paper with a history of taking planted stories from Republicans for siphoning back into the US media.”

Nevertheless, I’m hard pressed to imagine why voters might care. People often vote for very irrational reasons, but I wonder how many Americans are out there this morning thinking, “I was going to vote for a healthier economy and a sensible foreign policy, but Obama has a half-aunt that apparently was denied asylum and didn’t leave. Now, I want more of the same for four more years.”

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.