McCain Cautions Candidates On Immigration

The hot-button issue of immigration doesn’t appear to be going away anytime soon – at least not in Republican circles.

On NPR’s “Morning Edition” today, John McCain suggested that strong anti-immigrant rhetoric contributed to two recent, high-profile GOP Congressional losses – of former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum, who badly lost to Sen. Bob Casey in 2006, and Jim Oberweis, who lost the heavily Republican seat of former House Speaker Dennis Hastert this month in a special election.

"I know that there have been some races, like here in Pennsylvania, where Senator Santorum emphasized that issue [immigration] and lost by a large number,” McCain said on NPR.

“We just had a loss of Denny Hastert's seat out in Illinois. The Republican candidate out there, I am told, had very strong anti-immigrant rhetoric also, so I would hope that many of our Republican candidates would understand the political practicalities of this issue.”

McCain campaigned for Oberweis last month, helping the campaign raise about $257,000. Oberweis will be on the ballot again in November, against Rep. Bill Foster (D-Ill.)

During the campaign, Oberweis proposed his own plan to crack down on illegal immigration, and aired a television ad arguing that politicians in Washington "can't seem to fix" the problem.

McCain’s advice is going against the strategy of a handful of leading Republican Congressional candidates. Just today, one of the Republicans’ top Congressional recruits, Hazleton mayor Lou Barletta, invited all three presidential candidates “to come to our great city to discuss the issue of illegal immigration in the United States.”

Barletta, who is running against Rep. Paul Kanjorski (D-Pa.), has built a national political following over his strident opposition to illegal immigration and the punitive measures that he took as mayor to curb it.
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