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AZ-8: GOP Wounds Healed?

The NRCC has jumped behind conservative Randy Graf after Tuesday's primary win, even though Steve Huffman hasn't officially conceded yet and departing Rep. Jim Kolbe is refusing to endorse Graf.

The conventional wisdom on this race is that the Dems are now going to have an easy time of it against Graf. I'm not so sure, and I have a feeling that Mickey may be right again.

The Arizona Star notes that Giffords, the Democrat, focused on Iraq and healthcare during the primary, but is now going to be in a contest where immigration dominates the political landscape.

Giffords is lining up with President Bush, John McCain and Jim Kolbe on immigration, using them as cover. But that cover may prove illusory given the salience of the issue with voters - including rural Democrats - and the large percentage of registered independents in the district. I pointed to this article in the Arizona Daily Star when it came out in June, but it's worth looking at again:

Demos find border a top issue for rural voters

By Daniel Scarpinato

Arizona Daily Star

Tucson, Arizona | Published: 06.18.2006

SIERRA VISTA -- When Victor Walker knocks on the doors of fellow Cochise County Democrats to talk about his candidate of choice for Congress, the topic quickly turns to immigration.

"The common theme is, 'People broke the law, they should be treated like lawbreakers,' " says Walker, former Cochise County Democratic Party chairman, who is campaigning for Gabrielle Giffords.

"They want to vent. The issue comes home particularly when your property is being trashed. They don't like that," he says.

The tough talk by Democrats in border areas of the state is in striking contrast to the way liberals tackle the issue in nearby Tucson, or for that matter, in Washington. Elsewhere, they use words like compromise and comprehensive. In this neck of the woods, Democrats talk enforcement.

If Graf frames the issue properly by stressing enforcement and national security and can also tag Giffords as a supporter of "comprehensive" immigration reform, that seems to me a battle Graf can win.