The Basic Political Balance (Michael Barone, 11/12/06, US News)
A couple of numbers from the EMR exit poll. Party identification was 38 percent Democratic, 36 percent Republican. That’s only a point different from 2004’s 37 percent Democratic, 37 percent Republican. Republicans did worse because they had less support from independents this time.
On ideology, 36 percent identified themselves as conservatives and 21 percent as liberals. This is in line with the long historical trend. […]
Fred Barnes in the Weekly Standard makes the case that immigration restriction wasn’t a plus issue for House Republicans. In Arizona, with the biggest illegal border crossing crisis in the nation, two loud advocates of immigration restriction and opponents of guest-worker and legalization provisions lost: incumbent J.D. Hayworth in the Scottsdale-Tempe Fifth District and open-seat primary winner Randy Graf in the Eighth, which includes the east side of Tucson and Cochise County, site of most of the illegal border crossings. In 2004, Graf won 43 percent in the primary against incumbent Jim Kolbe, who favored guest-worker and legalization provisions. With Kolbe retiring, Graf won the same 43 percent in the primary again, but that was enough to win a three-candidate race. I tend to agree with Barnes’s take. If an anti-immigration candidate can’t win in these two districts, where can he win? As I said on Fox News on election night: “Nativism and protectionism are political weapons that in a certain light look very strong, which seem to be gleaming swords that will slay all before them. But, again and again, they crack like glass in your hand.”
Proof comes from an exit poll: “Should most illegal immigrants working in the United States be (a) offered a chance to apply for legal status or (b) deported to the country they came from?” Legal status was favored by 57 percent, deportation by 38 percent. Those favoring legal status voted 61-37 percent Democratic; those favoring deportation voted 56-42 percent Republican. You might object to the wording of the question, but the results suggest to me that anything perceived as a harsh stance on immigration is not an electoral winner and that even those who agree with the harsh stance are not very likely to be propelled to vote Republican because of it. […]
Almost all incumbent House Democrats voted against a free-trade measure as innocuous as the Central American Free Trade Agreement. Protectionism has become a partisan issue, with virtually all Democrats for and most Republicans against. So you can score a Democratic victory, like this year’s, as a victory for protectionism. It will certainly have consequences.
The election is reminiscent of the 1992 presidential, when the Right convinced itself not to vote for George H. W. Bush because he was insufficiently pure. Those same voters came crawling back though in ’94 after seeing what they’d wrought. Fortunately, this time they didn’t stick us with a president who got to reap a Peace Dividend for which his party bore no responsibility.