So much for the purported clout of the anti-immigrant conservatives. They lost a big race in Utah last night.
Their mantra, for many months, is that President Bush (a proponent of a guest-worker plan for illegal immigrants) is out of touch with his conservative base (which supposedly wants the illegals to go home), and that these base voters will punish Bush Republicans at the ballot box.
I'm still waiting.
As I previewed here yesterday, a House Republican primary in Utah last night pitted incumbent congressman Chris Cannon -- a staunch Bush supporter sympathetic to the guest-worker plan -- against businessman John Jacob, a hardliner on the illegals. The primary eve polls suggested that Jacob could well win. The tally this morning shows that Cannon crushed him by 12 percentage points.
No doubt the anti-immigrant forces will cite some mitigating excuses: Cannon had a lot more money and higher name ID, yetta yetta. But the fact is that they have long been threatening a grassroots revolt, based on the proposition that Bush and his Republican allies are soft on illegals, and they have yet to deliver.
In 2004, roughly half a dozen anti-immigrant conservatives tried to use the issue, mostly against Republican incumbents in various congressional primaries. They all lost. In 2005, a candidate from the border-patrol Minuteman group ran as a candidate in a southern California congressional election. He lost. Also last fall, Virginia Republican gubernatorial candidate Jerry Kilgore assailed illegal immigrants as one of his most prominent issues. He lost too.
So until the enemies of illegals break through somewhere, Chris Cannon is probably right when he says that the message of his Utah victory, for fellow Bush Republicans, is that "you don't have to worry about xenophobes."