Illinois` Oberweis: "Bush Runs Tight Ship On Immigration." But It's Sinking
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[See also: Memo From The Midwest—Immigration Idiocy In Illinois, by Dave Gorak]

No other conclusion can be drawn: George W. Bush's Republican Party is more willing to take a licking in crucial November Senate elections than to allow its candidates to discuss illegal immigration.

Nationwide, there are at least three such cases—New York, California and Illinois. In all three, the Republican challenge is so feeble that the incumbents are essentially running unopposed.

But nowhere has the Republican death wish been more visible than in Illinois.

As Dave Gorak explained on VDARE.COM yesterday, the Illinois Republican State Central Committee has resorted to the absurd step of importing radio talk show host Alan Keyes, a Maryland resident, to accept the GOP Senate nomination.

Keyes, who had previously dabbled in presidential politics, replaced the primary winner, Jack Ryan, who withdrew because of a sex scandal.  (It was a very Republican sex scandal: the two protagonists were married and there was no sex. But that's another story.)

During its search, the GOP Committee pointedly ignored conservative Jim Oberweis, even though he had finished second in the primary.

Oberweis is, in many ways, an ideal Republican candidate.  The successful Oberweis family dairy has been serving Illinois for more than a century. Oberweis, who holds a MBA from the University of Chicago, is currently Chairman of the Board of Oberweis Dairy. He also manages profitable investment firms and mutual funds. He had money to finance his campaign.

Best of all for the Republicans, Oberweis, as he told me in a recent interview, "supports 95% of what President George W. Bush has done."

But, oh, that remaining 5%!

Oberweis dared to do the unthinkable: he injected illegal immigration into his campaign. (Illinois is among the six most immigrant-impacted states.)  He disagreed, very vocally, with Bush's January proposal to give illegal immigrants amnesty. [See Outcry on Right Over Bush Plan on Immigration, By Rachel L. Swarns, NYT, February 21, 2004]

"Bush is dead wrong about amnesty," Oberweis told me.

On the campaign trail, Oberweis talked about illegal immigration. And voters listened.

In recalling his time on the stump, Oberweis told me:

"It was amazing. Across a wide spectrum of voters, people clearly support immigration reform. But the press and the elites were bitterly opposed."

Oberweis continued,

"They set out to punish me for talking about illegal immigration, no doubt about it. The Latino groups tried to organize a boycott of my ice cream stores. And the media never missed a chance to paint me as a racist or demagogue."

I asked Oberweis if at any time anyone from the press asked him a thoughtful question about immigration. "No, never," he replied.

But, after Ryan withdrew, Oberweis was passed over without so much as a look-see.

A disappointed Oberweis tells me that the selection process was "a sham:"

"Individuals interested in the Senate job were told to submit a paragraph to the Central Committee outlining their credentials. Those credentials would be reviewed and those candidates considered qualified would be invited to make a presentation to the Committee.

"I submitted a paragraph and never heard a word. Keyes never submitted anything and he's running for Senate."  

Oberweis told me:

"It seems like a question of basic fairness to voters. In the Olympics or any competition, if the winner is declared ineligible or withdraws, it usually goes to the runner up."

Oberweis, to his credit, refused to back down from his position that illegal immigration hurts American workers. And, while he accepts that he could have done a better job of stating his position, Oberweis maintains that illegal immigration is a valid issue.

"If I can't express my own views and my own beliefs, then I'm not going to be involved," he said.

At the end of my interview, I asked Oberweis if he felt that the Bush Administration might have torpedoed his candidacy.

He told me that he asked that exact question of Lori Raad, a member of the White House political development team.

According to Oberweis, Raad denied that Bush had anything to do with snuffing him out.

Concluded Oberweis, "We'll never know—but Bush runs a tight ship on the immigration issue."

Now Keyes, the hand-picked choice of the Illinois Republican State Central Committee, is getting hammered by favorite Barack Obama.

According to a Chicago Tribune/WGN-TV poll, Keyes' candidacy could hurt other Republicans in local and legislative races. Nearly three in ten voters said they were less likely to back GOP candidates because of the way party leaders went about settling on Keyes as their candidate.

More than twice as many voters have a negative impression of Keyes than a favorable one.

Black voters, white suburban women, independents and even conservatives all favor Obama over Keyes.

Oberweis acknowledges that beating Obama would be tough. But he feels that by talking about illegal immigration he could have forced Obama to do the same.

As it stands now, neither Keyes nor Obama mentions immigration.

The Bush Republicans have got their tight ship—but it's sinking.

Joe Guzzardi [email him], an instructor in English at the Lodi Adult School, has been writing a weekly newspaper column since 1988. This column is exclusive to VDARE.COM.

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