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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Southern Republican Focus on Immigration Intensifies

As regular readers might recall, back in May I did an analysis which predicted that the furor over immigration policy touched off in Arizona would have its greatest political impact not in the southwest or west coast, but in the Deep South, where a combination of new and highly visible Hispanic populations, low Hispanic voting levels, and red-hot Republican primaries would likely bring the issue to the forefront.
Nothing that’s happened since then has made me change my mind about that, though southern Republican unanimity on backing the Arizona law and replicating it everywhere has reduced the salience of immigration as a differentiator in some GOP primaries, most notably in South Carolina (where in any event the Nikki Haley saga eclipsed everything else).
But in Georgia, whose primary is on July 20, immigration is indeed a big issue in the gubernatorial contest, as reported by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Jim Galloway:

For the next 13 days, all stops are off when it comes to debating the issue of illegal immigration.
The Obama administration’s court challenge to the Arizona law that gives its peace officers the authority to stop and impound undocumented residents is already serving as a stick to a wasp nest in Georgia’s race for governor.
Former congressman Nathan Deal’s first TV ad of the primary season on Wednesday focused on illegal immigration and a promise that Georgia would soon have an Arizona-style law.
On the answering machines of tens of thousands of GOP voters, former secretary of state Karen Handel left a message of endorsement from Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer. Expect to see Brewer at Handel’s side before the July 20 vote.
The climate doesn’t brook dissent. Democrats have been uniformly silent on the Arizona issue.

As it happens, Deal and Handel are battling for a runoff spot. Handel and long-time Republican front-runner John Oxendine are also proposing radical changes in the state tax code, abolishing income taxes entirely, but so far that momentous issue is not getting the kind of attention generated by the action of another state on immigration three time zones away.

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