National Immigration Forum

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Election Analysis: Immigration as a Wedge Issue

December 08, 2008 - Posted by Maurice Belanger

In 21 House and Senate races in swing districts where a Republican candidate used illegal immigration as a wedge issue against the Democratic challenger, Democrats came out on top in 19 of the races.  While not all of the successful candidates said they favored comprehensive reform, they advocated policies beyond enforcement only. (America’s Voice)


The lack of success of the wedge issue strategy, in the case of immigration, was not entirely due to its rejection by Latinos.  In a post-election national poll, a majority of both McCain supporters and Obama supporters indicated they favored a comprehensive approach to the immigration problem.  In the general electorate, 57% favored a comprehensive solution (verses 28% favoring enforcement only).  This margin has not changed much in the past two years. (National Immigration Forum, America’s Voice)


Will Republicans, who have tended to latch on to the hard-line on immigration, learn that this is not a productive position to take for those who want to win elections?  Republican strategist Karl Rove recently wrote an essay, The Way Out of the Wilderness, printed in Newsweek.  He says in part, The GOP won't be a majority party if it cedes the young or Hispanics to Democrats. Republicans must find a way to support secure borders, a guest-worker program and comprehensive immigration reform that strengthens citizenship, grows our economy and keeps America a welcoming nation. An anti-Hispanic attitude is suicidal.

A summary of information on the election results from various sources has been compiled by the Immigration Policy Center, and can be obtained here:

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