Posted at 9:29 AM ET by Angie C. Marek
The loss of two Republicans in Arizona, including one of the most prominent immigration hawks running this election season, could deliver a powerful message to Republicans who expected immigration to be a silver bullet this election season. Rep. J.D. Hayworth, a six-term Republican who has been one of the most prominent advocates for the border-enforcement immigration-crackdown strategy favored by the most conservative wing of his party, lost his race definitively, earning only 45 percent of the vote to former Tempe Mayor Harry Mitchell's 52 percent. A similar trend occurred in Arizona's District Eight, a cut of the southeastern part of the state that was represented by retiring Republican Rep. Jim Kolbe for the past 22 years. Democrat Gabrielle Giffords, a former state senator, comfortably beat out Randy Graf, a candidate who often emphasized his status as a founding member of the Minuteman border group on the stump. With 89 percent of the precincts reporting, Giffords had 55 percent of the vote to Graf's 41 percent.
Both Mitchell and Giffords ran their races emphasizing "comprehensive immigration reform"reforms similar to what passed in the Senate this year, including both a guest-worker plan and strengthened border securityin a state where immigration is a crucial issue. Mitchell in particular took pains to fend off Hayworth's attacks on his border credentials by emphasizing he favored the kind of reforms endorsed by Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano and Sen. John McCain, a Republican. Giffords, running in a border district, was attacked in television ads paid for by the Minuteman PAC.
Hayworth's dramatic loss will probably be heralded as a surprise this election: He represented an affluent suburban Phoenix district, largely immune from economic challenges. He'd won comfortably in the pastgetting 60 percent or more of the vote in 2000, 2002, and 2004. Hayworth is author of Whatever It Takes, a book on the "immigration invasion," as he calls it. Some reports tied him to disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
Other Republicans who have taken pains to emphasize conservative immigration stancesmost notably Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvaniafound the issue failed to give them a much-desired election bounce.