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Barone on Utah

As usual, Michael Barone has the final word on Chris Cannon's victory in Utah and what it might mean for immigration reform:

It is conventional wisdom in many quarters that Republican voters overwhelmingly favor a border-security-only approach to immigration. Cannon's victory casts some doubt on that.

Yes, there were extenuating factors; there usually are in elections. Last week, Jacob imprudently told the Salt Lake Tribune that he thought Satan was responsible for recent business reverses that prevented him from putting as much of his own money into his campaign as he had intended. Even in a very religious district--the Utah Third is the home of Brigham Young University and probably has the highest percentage of Mormons of any congressional district in the United States--that probably made him sound a little wacky. Cannon's record on issues other than immigration is impeccably conservative--a plus in a district that voted 77 percent to 20 percent for George W. Bush over John Kerry in 2004. Still, Cannon's victory stands for the proposition that support for a comprehensive immigration bill is not political death in a Republican primary, even in a very conservative district that has been affected by immigration (in 2000, 10 percent of its residents were Hispanic; presumably the percentage of Hispanics voting in the Republican primary this year was much smaller).

It should be noted that this is not the first time Cannon has been opposed in the primary by an anti-immigration candidate. In 2004, he beat Matt Throckmorton by 58 to 42 percent in a turnout of 47,335. This time, he beat Jacob by 56to 44 percent in a turnout of 57,895. Both challenges had high visibility, though Jacob evidently spent more money. Yet the results look pretty much the same in percentage terms, and the numbers suggest that an increased turnout did not bring out a landslide of anti-immigration voters.

Barone says he thinks Cannon's victory, combined with movement from folks in the Senate like Arlen Specter, now makes passage of an immigration bill this year a possibility.