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THE MUSINGS OF A TRADITIONAL SOUTHERN DEMOCRAT

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Sid in his law office where he sits when meeting with clients. Observant eyes will notice the statuette of one of Sid's favorite Democrats.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

This will be the "Dewey Wins" equivalent: Immigration's Primary Effect Muted

From The Wall Street Journal on 6-8-2014, and then come Cantor's loss to Brat on Tuesday.  Wow!!

Sen. Lindsey Graham appeared to put himself in political jeopardy when he wrote and championed an overhaul of immigration laws, but he is poised to lap the field in Tuesday's Republican primary in South Carolina. GOP Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, who also backed the bill, is in a strong position ahead of his primary this August.

Rep. Renee Ellmers (R., N.C.) easily survived a primary challenge after backing liberalized laws. And Tim Donnelly, a leader in the movement to stop illegal immigration, lost to another Republican this month in California's open primary for governor.
 
Opposition to an immigration-law overhaul remains high within the Republican Party, but primary season is showing that support isn't necessarily a career-ending move, nor is opposition a clear path to the nomination. That could factor into the decision by House GOP leaders on whether to move broad immigration legislation this year.
 
"So far, being against immigration reform is not the ticket to victory that a lot of the proponents of that point of view seemed to think that it was," said GOP pollster Whit Ayres, who advises Mr. Graham's campaign and supports an immigration overhaul. He described opponents of the Senate legislation as "an intense" minority.
 
Standing against liberalized laws is still a powerful stance in some races. Many Republicans have avoided taking a clear stand, partly because of the perceived political consequences. That complicates the question of which side in the immigration debate may be drawing momentum from the primaries.
 
The Senate bill backed by Messrs. Graham and Alexander would provide a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants, a provision that opponents attack as a form of amnesty for people who broke U.S. law. The bill also includes enforcement measures and changes to the legal immigration system.
 
So far, House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio) hasn't brought any immigration bills to the House floor, allowing his members to avoid taking a position. It isn't clear whether the results of primary races to date will help persuade Mr. Boehner and other House leaders to move legislation this summer, as the White House and others are hoping. Defeats of Republicans who back new legislation surely would have hurt the measures' chances.
 
In some races, the issue still packs power. In the Texas GOP primary for lieutenant governor, for instance, challenger Dan Patrick beat incumbent David Dewhurst after a campaign focused heavily on illegal immigration, in which Mr. Patrick repeatedly described the influx of undocumented Mexicans as an "illegal invasion."
 
But elsewhere, the issue has proved ineffective. In North Carolina, Ms. Ellmers was attacked relentlessly by her GOP primary opponent, Frank Roche, for supporting legal status for undocumented residents, but she won with about 59% of the vote.
 
In California, Republican Neel Kashkari defeated Mr. Donnelly, who made his name as a Minuteman, a group that believes the U.S. hasn't done enough to secure the border, and an anti-immigration crusader who put the issue at the center of his campaign.
 
In the final days of the Nebraska Senate primary campaign, Republican Shane Osborn tried to resuscitate his struggling campaign by saying opponent Ben Sasse was not sufficiently conservative on immigration. It didn't work.
 
Seventy-five Republicans have signed a pledge sponsored by the anti-immigration Federation for American Immigration Reform, vowing to oppose "amnesty" for illegal immigrants as well as increases in legal immigration and guest workers. Just two of them, both incumbents, have beaten opponents who didn't sign it. Nearly 40 others lost, two ran unopposed and the rest are in primaries that haven't yet occurred.
 
Dan Stein, president of the FAIR Congressional Task Force, said pledge signers have lost because they were outspent by establishment Republicans. "The purpose of the questionnaire is to inject the issue into the discussion in an environment where the leadership of both parties is trying to censor debate over immigration policy," he said.
 
The immigration issue has been hotly debated in South Carolina, where Mr. Graham has drawn a half-dozen primary challengers, some of whom are making immigration the leading point of their attacks.
 
A poll last week by Clemson University found Mr. Graham with support of 49% of likely primary voters, with his nearest competitor, state Sen. Lee Bright, at just 9%. About one-third of voters were undecided—good news for Mr. Graham as he tries to top the 50% threshold needed to avoid a runoff.
 
Mr. Graham has moved to insulate himself with conservatives by taking a hard line on issues other than immigration. Last week, he suggested that President Barack Obama be impeached if he again releases prisoners from Guantanamo Bay without consulting Congress, as required.
 
In a debate Saturday night, his opponents took turns attacking his record on immigration. "If you did not support amnesty," Mr. Bright told him, "we wouldn't be here tonight."
 
Mr. Graham defended his views on immigration and his approach to his job. "What is in it for a Republican in South Carolina to be talking about this issue? Not much," he said. But he said the problems with the nation's immigration system were severe. "My goal is to fix it once and for all."
 

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