Over the weekend, I noted the GOP’s very significant defeat in the special election for former House Speaker Dennis Hastert’s congressional seat. Open-borders propagandists have seized the opportunity to blame losing Republican Jim Oberweis’s loss on his tough, pro-immigration enforcement stance. Reason magazine gloated and Wall Street Journal editorial board showed open glee:
Republicans such as Mr. Oberweis remain convinced that illegal immigration is a winning issue. And if the electorate were comprised mostly of Internet screechers and cable news anchors, they might be right. But the fact that Mr. McCain, the Presidential candidate most closely associated with immigration tolerance, has outlasted Mitt Romney, Rudy Giuliani, Mike Huckabee and other immigration hardliners, should be an indication that other issues are foremost in the minds of even GOP voters.
Saturday’s result showed once again that a hard line on illegal immigration doesn’t win elections. The longer Republicans pretend that it does the more elections they will lose.
The 14th District has long been considered a Republican stronghold. So how did Foster, a scientist and businessman from Geneva, muster enough votes to win? His campaign staffers believe that voters are hungry for change, and an endorsement by Illinois’ own political rock star, Sen. Barack Obama, certainly didn’t hurt the cause.
But prominent area Republicans think the difference might have had more to do with Republicans not turning up at the polls — or voting for Foster, if they did come out to vote. That, combined with low turnout overall (roughly 20 percent of registered voters cast ballots) turned the tide for Foster, some are saying.
Oberweis spokesman Bill Pascoe said Monday that it is too early to accurately assess how the election slipped away. He said he would need to see numbers telling him who voted, and where.
“One of two things is true,” Pascoe said. “Either we had a problem with our message, or a problem with organization.”
Kane County GOP Chairman Michael Kenyon said a Saturday election might have kept people away, but he also was critical of the campaigns both candidates ran. He suggested that there was too much negative campaigning on both sides, and too many automated calls to people’s homes.
“I got called by Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, Bill Foster, Denny Hastert, the NRCC (National Republican Congressional Committee), and Jim Oberweis himself,” Kenyon said. “I told them all I voted the first day of early voting.”
But Kenyon added that the intensely negative primary election between Oberweis and State Sen. Chris Lauzen might have convinced some Republicans to stay home. After being defeated, Lauzen declined to endorse Oberweis, holding out for an apology for what he saw as an unfair attempt to damage his reputation.
Kenyon said that might have made a difference, but chastised Lauzen for his decision. And political blogs this weekend filled up with comments criticizing Lauzen for not uniting the party when he had the chance.
“That was a bad choice on Lauzen’s part,” Kenyon said. “People never forget.”
Lauzen could not be reached for comment Monday, but his former campaign staffer (and former Kane GOP chairman) Denny Wiggins said that the negative campaigning of the primary election was certainly a factor in Saturday’s result.
“People were pretty turned off,” Wiggins said. “Lauzen supporters were disappointed, and either didn’t vote, or voted the wrong way.”
There are other Republicans, however, who blame Oberweis for the loss, citing his previous attempts at public office — he ran unsuccessfully for Senate in 2002 and 2004, and for governor in 2006. Some have called him an unlikable candidate, and one high-ranking Republican operative went so far as to suggest Oberweis step aside.
But the real reasons don’t fit the open-borders narrative. Self-delusion is a wonderful thing.