The Cannon Con?
I pretty much get a woodie every time I visit Mickey Kaus's Kausfiles. Todays chubby comes courtesy of his deconstruction of Rep. Cannon's curious win in Utah over a pro-enforcement challenger.
The Cannon Con: GOP Rep. Chris Cannon has a clear interpretation of his 56-44 primary victory over a Tancredo-like border-enforcement challenger:Just to be clear. Rep. Cannon, Michael Barone and assorted other country killers trumptet this victory as presaging a win for the president, a win for the senate bill, BUT, and this is an enormous set of glutes, he RAN AS A STRICT PRO-ENFORCEMENT CANDIDATE!! (I apologize for the caps, they just came over me like a fever).
Rep. Chris Cannon said his solid victory in Utah's Republican primary is good news for President Bush and those seeking a consensus on immigration policy this year. Cannon supports President Bush's proposal for a guest-worker program ... . [Emphasis added]
Hmmm. It's certainly tempting to describe a reversed-image, bookend-like parallelism between Cannon's primary victory and Brian Bilbray's victory in California's recent open seat election. And that seems to be the CW approach: a) The California race showed that the anti-GOP wave wasn't big enough to displace a veteran Republican in a Republican district. Utah showed the conservative anti-legalization wave wasn't big enough to displace a veteran Republican in a Republican district. b) California demonstrated that opposition to legalizing illegal immigration is a strong force. Utah demonstrated it's not that strong. c) The Sensenbrenner "enforcement-only" approach wins one (CA). The Bush "comprehensive" approach wins the other (Utah). d) In both races, last-minute gaffes hurt the challengers, muddling the contrasting take-home lessons.
But wait: there's a deeper lack of contrast. Bilbray ran on a platform of opposition lto illegal immigration. Meanwhile, Cannon ... also ran on a plaform of opposition to illegal immigration. Here's the text of a last-minute Cannon TV ad, as reported in the Salt Lake Tribune:
"I'm Congressman Chris Cannon and I approve this message." Female announcer: "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free." Male announcer: "But Congressman Chris Cannon says only if they come here legally. That's why Chris Cannon is fighting to pass legislation to strengthen our borders and toughen penalties on illegal immigration. And why Chris Cannon would require all immigrants to carry a tamper-proof ID card, or be deported. Fighting to stop illegal immigration. (Because it matters). Re-elect Congressman Chris Cannon." [Emphasis added]
I would guess that voters who responded to this TV message were not sending rousing message of support for the Bush/Kennedy/McCain "path to citizenship" approach. This impression is reinforced by President Bush's recorded message on Cannon's behalf, in which Bush seemingly doesn't mention immigration:
"Chris Cannon is an effective leader for Utah in congress. He's a strong Republican, a proven defender of traditional family values," says the president's recorded message. "And in the War on Terror, Chris Cannon has stood shoulder to shoulder with our troops as they fight to defeat the terrorists abroad so we do not have to face them here in America. The people of Utah need and deserve the leadership Chris Cannon provides."
Cannon's victory is even harder to interpret as a rejection of the Sensenbrenner enforcement-only approach because Cannon's campaign featured a ringing endorsement from one James Sensenbrenner. Here's the Deseret Morning News:
In a recorded message, Sensenbrenner said Cannon is "a major force in Congress."
"And long before it was fashionable, Chris Cannon was working with me to stop illegal immigration. Just about everybody in Congress is talking about immigration, but Chris Cannon is one of the few doing the heavy lifting to actually solve the problem."
It's all eerily reminiscent of the welfare debate, in which anti-welfare candidates sincerely bashed welfare and pro-welfare candidates insincerely bashed welfare. We know how that turned out. This could be why House Republicans don't seem to be interpreting Cannon's win as a reason to abandon their enforcement-only position. It's also why, when you encounter the quotes from Democratic leaders in WaPo (Sample: "Republicans want to use this like Willie Horton in 1988 and gay marriage in 2004"--Sen. Schumer) you can smell their fear.
This presages a win for the president like my mad love for Imelda Marcos indicates a long and fruitful coupling with the shoe hag herself.
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