Team of Experts:
         Christopher Dorval
         Andrea LaRue
         Peter Brodnitz
         Cassandra Q. Butts
         Celinda Lake
         Simon B. Rosenberg

Races to Watch

         New Jersey


         Arizona 8
         Indiana 8
         Colorado 7
         Florida 13
         Pennsylvania 6

Polls and Strategy
on Immigration
          Third Way Memo
          Insider's Poll
          WA Senate Poll
          GOP Immigration Memo

Campaign Ads on GOP ads
         O'Donnell: "Amnesty"
         Hayworth: "Dismissed"
         Chabot: "Immigration Facts"

Audio File

Press Briefing: Analysis of the Immigration Issue in Campaign 2006


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Welcome to!

From the desk of Chris Dorval and Andrea LaRue

This website has attempted to catalogue how and where the immigration issue played in this election cycle and to analyze some of what we saw. In almost all of the competitive House and Senate races, the immigration issue had been raised and hotly debated. Though the issue cries for a federal response, it played in several gubernatorial races as well. The question, of course, was whether the issue was used wisely and whether the Republican Party, which in the main had been responsible for attack ads on the issue, ended up reaping the rewards it had hoped. Read what we had predicted about the political fallout. Read on to judge what ultimately happened as the voters weighed in.


Update for November 16, 2006

More of what people are saying…

Houston Chronicle Editorial Board
What Americans demand, according to their votes and polls taken during election week, are reason and realism. U.S. immigration policy consists of encouraging thousands of Latin America's most daring and desperate workers to risk their lives seeking U.S. jobs. Once they arrive, they pay with a fearful, subterranean existence in which they are exploited and barred from fully contributing to the community. Most Americans want no part of this devil's bargain. In the elections, they also rejected extremists who demonized the workers themselves.
Houston Chronicle, "Setting boundaries: Midterm voters demanded centrist, enforceable immigration policy. Now," November 15, 2006

Bradenton (FL) Herald Editorial Board
[S]ome of the most strident and obstinate GOP opponents to more comprehensive reforms lost re-election, and the party overall lost enough members to put the Democrats back in control of the legislative agenda. There is a wide gulf between the White House and the incoming Democratic majority on issues ranging from Iraq to taxes. But, at least on immigration, there is a chance to reject the acrimony of the recent past and actually accomplish something critical to the nation's security and economy.
Bradenton Herald, "Immigration reform: Election gives Bush a chance to win big," November 15, 2006

Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA)
The strategy of the House of Representatives on immigration legislation backfired. There was no doubt that our borders have to be secured and amnesty has to be rejected, but it was equally obvious that Congress has to deal with guest workers and 11 million undocumented immigrants. President Bush called for comprehensive immigration reform and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce insisted that our economy needed guest workers, but the House disagreed and addressed only border security. The result was the loss of House seats where the Hispanic vote - which went 70 percent for Democrats, according to exit polls - was influential.
Sen. Arlen Specter, "Republicans can win by picking up 'vital center'," Philadelphia Inquirer, November 14, 2006

Sen. Mel Martinez (R-FL) (President Bush's nominee for Chairman of the Republican National Committee)
"I think we have to understand that the election did speak to one issue, and that was that -- it's not about bashing people, it's about presenting a hopeful face. Border security only, enforcement only, harshness only is not the message that I believe America wants to convey."
Washington Times, "Martinez hits 'enforcement only'," November 15, 2006

Rev. Luis Cortes Jr. (founder of the Philadelphia-based Esperanza USA ministry)
"A lot of the Republican candidates chose immigration as the wedge issue, and polls seem to bear out that it was an error for them to do that."
Los Angeles Times, "Conservatives wary of choice to lead RNC," November 15, 2006

Update for November 10, 2006

What they’re saying…

Dick Armey, former House majority leader
In 2006, instead of heavy lifting on substantial reforms, House and Senate leaders attempted to rally their political base on wedge issues like illegal immigration and gay marriage. Instead of dealing with spending bills or retirement security, the Senate dedicated two full legislative days to a constitutional ban on gay marriage that no one expected to pass. No substantive legislation was passed dealing seriously with border security and legitimate guest workers (funding for a 700 mile fence was finally authorized, but no funds were appropriated). In both instances, it was pure politics, designed to appeal to angry factions of the GOP base. While Republicans managed to hold conservative Christians, they alienated independents, who represent 26% of the voting population. For the first time in 10 years, independents sided with Democrats by a wide margin. Candidates that bet on the high demagogy coefficient associated with illegal immigration, notably in Arizona, lost.
Wall Street Journal, “End of the Revolution,” November 9, 2006

Andres Oppenheimer, Miami Herald Columnist
Hispanics said ''adiós'' to President Bush's Republican Party in Tuesday's midterm elections, voting in much greater numbers than expected for Democratic candidates in an apparent rejection of the ruling party's efforts to blame much of the nation's problems on undocumented migrants.
Miami Herald, “Immigration issue doomed GOP,” November 9, 2006

David Brooks, New York Times Columnist
Immigration has been a complete bust as an issue for the G.O.P. restrictionists.
Midterm Madness Blog, “A Tide, Not a Tsunami,” November 7, 2006

Morton Kondracke, Roll Call Executive Editor
The clearest repudiation of the loud right came on the issue of immigration. By a margin of 57 percent to 38 percent, voters said they wanted illegal immigrants who work in the U.S. to be allowed a chance to apply for legal status and not be deported.
Roll Call, “Message of 2006: Moderates Fed Up With Polarization,” November 9, 2006

Sergio Bendixen, pollster
I believe that the immigration issue had a lot to do with energizing the Hispanic electorate, making them a lot more interested in politics and a lot more willing to come out to the polls and participate in the electoral process, but also I think that many Hispanics have been offended by the tone of the debate in the Congress, by the reactionary solutions that have been proposed by many members of Congress and I think they blame the Republican party for the unfair way that issue has been handled and the way it has hurt the image of the Hispanic community nationally.
New American Media, “GOP Blew It: Latinos Are Moving Toward the Democratic Party,” November 9, 2006

Fred Barnes, Executive Editor, Weekly Standard
What Americans want is a full-blown solution to the immigration crisis. And that will come only when Republicans come together on a "comprehensive" measure that not only secures the border but also provides a way for illegals in the United States to work their way to citizenship and establishes a temporary worker program. If Republicans don't grab this issue, Democrats will.
Weekly Standard, “Post Mortem: Why Republicans got shellacked in the midterms,” November 8, 2006

William Safire, former New York Times Columnist
Bush has already proposed a comprehensive compromise: a guest worker program with earnable citizenship for those here now, as well as a border fence to stop the influx of Mexicans. But Republicans — fearful of nativist voters shouting “no amnesty” — passed only the harsh half, and that unfunded fence is a joke. Now Bush, with many Democrats already supporting his approach, should get recalcitrant Republicans to pass his fair-minded immigration package. It would be a test of both new Republican discipline and Democrats’ sincerity on bipartisanship.
New York Times, “After the Thumpin',” November 9, 2006

Albor Ruiz, New York Daily News Columnist
The lesson is clear: Americans want fair immigration reform. And politicians will forget it at their own risk.
New York Daily News, “Voters' message thunderous,” November 9, 2006

Robert Novak, Syndicated Columnist
Rep. J.D. Hayworth of Arizona, a stalwart of the famous Republican Class of '94, did not seem seriously endangered until word came back to Washington election morning that he looked like a loser. Representing a district that is not as Republican as it used to be, Hayworth had become an enforcement-only immigration hard-liner. It did not help him at the polls.
Chicago Sun-Times, “Rash GOP didn't see crash coming,” November 9, 2006

Linda Chavez, conservative Columnist and Author
In his book "Whatever It Takes: Illegal Immigration, Border Security and the War on Terror," Hayworth called for a three-year ban on legal immigration from Mexico, which would devastate the U.S. agricultural community and hurt other industries as well. Apparently voters in Arizona's 5th Congressional District wanted no part of Hayworth's proposed ban., “Immigration Bust,” November 8, 2006

Los Angeles Times Editorial Board
ARIZONA HELD A referendum on immigration policy Tuesday. The winner was John McCain. McCain, the state's senior senator, wasn't actually on the ballot. Rather, candidates across the state campaigned for or against an idea that McCain and a few other Arizonans in Congress have championed: a comprehensive approach to immigration reform that provides more visas for guest workers, modifies the path to citizenship for illegal immigrants already in the country and improves border security.
Los Angles Times, “'No' to immigration hard-liners,” November 9, 2006

November 8, 2006
Contact: Chris Dorval (202) 530-4669
Andrea LaRue (202) 778-0740

Immigration Fails as Wedge Issue for GOP; Succeeds in Expanding Base for Democrats

Fear and Hysteria Give Way to Public Demand for Solutions in Key Bellweather Races is a group of activists and pollsters tracking the impact of the immigration issue on the 2006 elections. Our preliminary analysis of last night's results strongly suggest that very few toss up races were won by Republican candidates who attempted to exploit immigration as a voter motivator. Democrats that back comprehensive immigration reform mostly won their races. And the Republican Party is likely to get smaller as its hard line on immigration drives away Hispanic voters.

Of the 15 key races tracked by - races where immigration played a key role in the race - the tally sheet currently stands as follows: 12 - 2 - 1 (Kyl kept his Senate seat in Arizona, as expected; Katherine Harris's House seat, FL-13, was won by the Republican; and PA-06 is still undecided).

"The political strategy of the Republican candidates was just like Republican energy policy: drill deeper and deeper looking for more votes out of the same well," said Christopher Dorval, co-chair of along with Andrea LaRue. "And the well has run dry. The party not only didn't win, but it has once again failed to expand its base. The Democrats have an opportunity to seize the moment, enact comprehensive immigration legislation that is supported by the mainstream voters of both parties, and reap a windfall with Latino voters going into 2008."

"With respect to immigration, the Republican Party handed the Democratic Party a gift. The GOP's mishandling of this issue has alienated the fastest growing group of new voters in the nation. Democrats now have a clear opportunity to realize a demographic realignment of historic proportions and redraw the nation's electoral map for a generation," said Democratic activist Andrea LaRue, co-chair of "The implication for the presidential race of 2008 and for the future viability of both parties is profound."

Here are some of the highlights from last night related to how immigration fared:

According to Dorval, "The fact that the anti-immigration card didn't work in Arizona and Colorado shows that this Republican strategy was a loser, and that voters are smarter than the Republicans thought. It turns out that Americans who are deeply concerned with our nation's broken immigration system want solutions not sound bites, pragmatism not posturing."

This is what the Washington Post reported this morning on the exit polling, "…Republicans hoped to capitalize on…immigration, but fewer than one in three cited it as extremely important in influencing their decision, and they only narrowly favored Republican candidates. About six in 10 voters said that they believe illegal immigrants working in the United States should be offered a chance to apply for legal status, a position that was supported by Bush but rejected by House Republicans who have pushed an enforcement-first approach to controlling illegal immigration. Democratic candidates won support from 61 percent of those who backed a path to citizenship, according to the poll."

Two new polls out yesterday echo this analysis. The first, released by the Manhattan Institute and the National Immigration Forum, found that immigration would not be a top vote determining issue nor a top turnout motivator. Furthermore; voters remain supportive of comprehensive immigration reform and expect Congress to take action next year.

Another poll released yesterday by the National Council of La Raza and the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials of likely Latino voters found that Republican attempts to use immigration as a wedge issue were driving down Latino support for Republicans by some 20 points.

These findings correspond with today's exit polling results: more than 7 out of 10 Hispanic voters supported Democrats, and only 27% supported Republicans. This is in stark contrast to the 2004 election in which President Bush attracted an estimated 40 to 44% of the Hispanic vote.

"It seems that the vaunted Republican strategy of trying to use immigration as political wedge produced little more than self-inflicted wounds that could take a long time to heal," said LaRue.

Update for November 7, 2006

Must Read #1 – Zakaria
The results are not in, but already Newsweek International's Fareed Zakaria is looking past today's vote. In his column, dated Nov.13 (which also ran in Monday's Washington Post), Zakaria discusses the prospects for comprehensive immigration reform in the next Congress.

Must Read #2 – Morris
In a more partisan vein, Washington Monthly editor Rachel Morris evaluates just how well White House strategist Karl Rove's efforts to bring immigrant and Hispanic voters into the Republican Party is doing after six years.

Update for November 5, 2006

Politics and Policy/Policy and Politics
What are the implications for immigration policy if the midterm election results arrive on Tuesday more or less as predicted by the chattering classes? That is to say, if the Democrats take control of the House, as many predict they will, and/or take the Senate, which some think they will, will immigration be a legislative priority in the 110th Congress?

David Brooks, the influential conservative New York Times columnist, thinks Democratic control of one or more houses, plus the emerging failure of the immigration issue as a political silver bullet, leads to comprehensive immigration reform legislation moving in the 110th.

Earlier in the week, the Washington Times' Stephen Dinan explored the potential of comprehensive immigration reform moving if the Democrats take one or more Houses in an article headlined "Bush may find an ally on immigration."

Indeed, the prospects of House Republican hardliners no longer being able to obstruct the immigration and border security policies favored by the President, a majority in the Senate, and (in most public opinion polls) the public, is part of the political narrative. Rep. John Hostettler (R-IN), Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Immigration, focused on the policy implications of a Democratically-controlled House in a stump speech on Wednesday:

Hostettler, a hero of the immigration hardliners and supported by their PACS, is facing a very tough race against Democrat Brad Ellsworth in Indiana's 8th District.

Which gets us back to politics. In a posting Friday in the TKS blog on the conservative National Review web site, Jim Geraghty reaffirms his prediction that another immigration hawk supported by restrictionist PAC money, Republican Randy Graf, will score a come-from-behind-victory in the race for the open Arizona 8 House seat. But, Geragthy adds:

Graf arrived at a similar conclusion when interviewed by the Wall Street Journal in September.

That may be the most politically astute thing Mr. Graf has ever said.

Update for November 4, 2006

Virginia is for Lovers???
Two weeks after the Washington Post ran the headline "Allen, Webb Are Not Spotlighting Their Positions on Immigration," the two candidates in the tight and feisty Virginia Senate race have joined this year's bandwagon and made immigration a part of their message to voters.

The Roanoke Times' Todd Jackson and Michael Sluss wrote, "Now in a fight for his political life, U.S. Sen. George Allen turned to what he called border 'patriots' for some support Thursday in Roanoke." He was there campaigning with Minuteman Civil Defense Corps political action committee Chairman Chris Simcox and taking a stand against illegal immigration:

Allen also appeared with Simcox at a campaign event outside of a Phillip Morris cigarette factory and repeated one of the most common - and most thoroughly debunked - campaign saws:

As the Washington Post reported Thursday, Sen. Allen has a new flight of ads on the Social Security for illegal immigrants canard. The non-partisan, run by former CNN political reporter Brooks Jackson under the auspices of the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania, has counted 29 ads nationally using "various versions of this misleading claim. Similar misconceptions about the measure were spread as part of a chain e-mail last spring and summer." (, Republican Campaign Theme Debunked: Social Security for Illegal Immigrants).

For his part, challenger Jim Webb, a writer and former Secretary of the Navy, has been clear about his position on immigration reform. He has said he is for a more secure border, but told reporters last week:

But Sen. Allen, who famously said to a Virginia-born Webb staffer of South Asian descent "welcome to America" while calling him "macaca," must feel Webb is vulnerable to attacks on his immigration positions. Last year, Virginia gubernatorial candidate Jerry Kilgore (R) ran hard on the immigration issue and was defeated by (Governor) Tim Kaine (D) who effectively neutralized the Kilgore attacks. As the Washington Post observed in talking to suburban Loudon County voters, Kilgore's harsh immigration attacks may have backfired, especially in immigrant-rich Northern Virginia:

Peter Brodnitz, one of the contributing experts for this Web site, was an advisor to the Kaine campaign in 2005 and is currently advising Webb, but he did not contribute to this particular posting.

Update for November 3, 2006

What is happening in Illinois?
You might not guess at first glance that suburban Chicago would be a prime target for Republican anti-immigrant attacks, but the campaign volleys on immigration against Democrats running in the 6th, 8th, and 10th districts of Illinois are constant and strikingly familiar.

Rep. Henry Hyde's open seat in the 6th District is rated a "Toss Up" by the Cook Political Report. This is where Tammy Duckworth and Peter Roskam are locked in a tight race, and Roskam's mailers paid for by the Illinois Republican Party and the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) say "Tammy Duckworth Supports Amnesty…"

The TV advertisements on behalf of the Republican candidate by the NRCC have outlined several similar attacks, such as, "Liberal Democrat Tammy Duckworth Supports Social Security for Illegal Immigrants." See also and a Roskam campaign advertisement.

In the 8th District, a mailer by the NRCC attacks incumbent Democrat Rep. Melissa Bean, who is being challenged by David McSweeney, saying she "opposed efforts to stop illegal immigration." The mailer sandwiches a picture of immigrants crossing the US Mexico border between pictures of Osama Bin Laden and a picture of men of Arab descent with automatic weapons.

In Illinois 10, Republican incumbent Mark Kirk is being challenged by Democrat Dan Seals in a surprisingly spirited race. Mail sent by the Kirk campaign attacks Seals, saying "DAN SEALS SAYS AMNESTY IS THE ANSWER."

While these anti-immigrant attacks have been visible, particularly in the Duckworth v. Roskam race, what is probably less visible is that an immigrant rights coalition in Illinois, the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR), has been engaged in a multi-year sustained citizenship, voter registration, and voter mobilization drive.

It is too early to know how the immigrant vote will affect these races, but the numbers of new registrations in Illinois are already worth noting. In the past three years ICIRR has registered 48,599 new immigrant voters. In the 6th District, 3,676 new immigrant citizens have been registered.

Non-partisan efforts are underway to knock on the doors of these new registrants and other immigrants and to boost voter participation. ICIRR has 18 staffed field operations across metropolitan Chicago, operating in 8 languages. They are making 20,000 "robo-calls," 25,000 live calls, knocking on 54,000 doors; and sending 27,226 pieces of mail by election day. (See an ICIRR mailer (PDF) that went to Addison and Bloomingdale townships in the 6th District among other places.)

In Illinois 6 (Hyde’s seat), these grassroots efforts, combined with the demographic changes in the district, make one wonder if the Roskam attacks on immigrants were a smart move. Out of a total population of 650,482 in the 6th District, 149,519 individuals in the district are foreign born. The naturalized population has increased by 51.2% since 2000 to 75,787. There are 108,151 Latinos, a 32.7% growth in the Latino population since 2000, and 63,568 Asians, a 21.5% increase since 2000. While the number of registered Latinos and Asians are indeed smaller, these aren’t numbers that can be ignored. (See: Marching Towards the American Dream.)

Just more evidence that there might be a cost to consistently comparing immigrants who are coming to the United States to work with Osama Bin Laden in an election year.

I'm Andrea LaRue, and I approve of this message…

Update for November 2, 2006

A Latino Backlash?
On Tuesday, The NALEO Education Fund (National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials) released a list of races where the Hispanic vote is likely to be a deciding factor. The list ranks races by the percentage of the voting-age population that is Latino.

In Arizona's Senate race, for example, Latinos make up 17.2% of the voting-age population. In the race for the seat vacated by Majority Leader Tom Delay (Texas 22), 17.1% of the voting-age population is Latino. In both of these races (and a number of others on NALEO's list), immigration is a central campaign topic. How the Latino population votes and how it reacts to the charged immigration debate will be something we will watch carefully.

As Peter Wallsten reported in the Los Angeles Times, Latino ties to the GOP are being strained this year.

The Latino Coalition's polling of Latinos on immigration and other issues is here.

Latino voter engagement is expected to be particularly noticeable this year and for many years to come. Simon Rosenberg, President and Founder of NDN and a consulting expert for this Web site told Nicole Gaouette of the L.A. Times that there has been a "civic awakening in the Latino community."

No Traction on Immigration
Cox Newspapers' Eunice Moscoso quotes Republican pollster Ed Goeas of the Tarrance Group in her story Sunday indicating that while the cost of taking a hard-line stance on immigration may be the Latino vote, the payoff in energizing the Republican base may be a fiction.

Jonathan Tilove of Newhouse News Service writes a good summary of how the immigration issue is failing to gain traction for hardliners.

Stay tuned…

Update for October 31, 2006

"The Fence Campaign"
An October 30th New York Times editorial examines how well or poorly immigration is performing as a campaign issue this year.

The Times makes a very persuasive argument that the immigration issue isn't working out for House Republicans the way they had planned.

As National Journal's CongressDaily P.M. also reported on October 30th, immigration is performing so badly as a campaign issue, it is being ripped from the RNC playbook.