Just before Congress left on its Spring recess, I visited Capitol Hill.
The D.C. buzz is not about health care (done), comprehensive immigration reform (only Sen. Chuck Schumer and U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez have the courage to say the words out loud and in public). Instead, it's about a far more elevated question: can the Democrats wiggle off the hook between now and the November elections?
Optimists, all Democrats, point to seven months as a political eternity. The boldest of them predict that by November all the wounds caused by the year-long wrangling will be forgiven and forgotten.
GOP insiders call their foes delusional.
Examined closely, the discontent with the Beltway isn't limited to party affiliation as much as it is to incumbency.
The good news for patriotic immigration reformers is that the mood toward incumbents is so sour that as many as five among the worst pro-amnesty Senate bunch may not even survive primary challenges against them.
They are Robert Bennett (R-Utah), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) John McCain (R-AZ) and Arlen Specter (D-turned R-turned D-Pa.)
Their respective immigration grades are: C-, F-, D-, D and D.
While it is not unprecedented for an incumbent senator to be ousted in a primary, it's rare. And should five get the boot, it would be extraordinary.
Three pro-amnesty senators have already opted to retire instead of suffer certain November defeats. They are Florida's Mel Martinez (Rep.), Indiana's Evan Bayh (Dem.) and Connecticut's Christopher Dodd (Dem). Their grades: Bayh, a deceptive C and Dodd, F- (Marinez left the Senate and was replaced by George Le Mieux, F-)
And there's an outside chance that a Tea Party-inspired effort against New Jersey's Robert Menendez (F-) might succeed in ousting him. [NJ Supremes accelerate briefing sked on Menendez recall, by Terry Hurlbut, Philadelphia Examiner, April 8, 2010]
So as many as nine sitting senators, all likely "yea" votes for any amnesty legislation, might be gone in the November housecleaning.
Here's a breakdown of the five struggling senators. Keep in mind that the very fact that their challengers are within striking distance is significant.
· Bob Bennett (Utah): For more than a year, many Republicans have been chanting "Anybody but Bob"—ever since Bennett backed George W. Bush's financial bailout and for his unwavering defense of earmarks which send taxpayer dollars to projects in lawmakers' districts outside the competitive process required for other federal spending.
One of Bennett's closest challengers is Tim Bridgewater who, among his other strong immigration positions, proposes eliminating the "Anchor Baby" loophole. Says Bridgewater:
"In general, it should be harder—not easier—than it is to become a citizen of the United States. Children born to non-citizens should not receive automatic citizenship. There are arguments to be made that changing the current practice will require a constitutional amendment, but I think there is a strong case that it could be done by statute, and I would pursue that avenue vigorously as Senator. If it can't be done by statute, I would support a constitutional amendment to achieve the goal."
· Michael Bennet (D-Colorado): During the Obamacare debate, Bennet once said he would support health care legislation even if it meant his defeat in November.
Judging by his recent decision to start a petition drive to ensure his name is on August's primary, Bennet may fear the worst.
Petitioning onto the ballot is a move used by candidates who are unlikely to receive the 30 percent of support at state assemblies that's necessary to qualify for a primary ballot. Bennet's show of weakness indicates his lack of confidence that he will survive the primary.
Bennet's most likely Democratic primary challenger: Colorado House Speaker Andrew Romanoff who has taken a strong stance against illegal immigration. [Dems Take on Illegals, by Myung Oak Kim, Rocky Mountain News, February 11, 2006]
· Blanche Lincoln (Arkansas): According to our friend W. James Antle III at the American Spectator, Lincoln is "still in trouble" and would be handily defeated in the general election by any Republican candidate.
Lincoln has aggressively supported non-immigrant work visas and various amnesties that have been proposed during her three-term career.
· John McCain (Arizona): Finally, McCain will have to face a viable challenge from an experienced, well known candidate J.D. Hayworth.
The latest data from the Rasmussen Report shows Hayworth "gaining significant ground" on McCain. In January, McCain lead by 22 points; in March by only seven, a swing of 15 points in less than two months.
McCain's immigration positions are all too well known to VDARE.COM readers. They may lead to his defeat at Hayworth's hands.
During his career as a U.S. Representative, Hayworth introduced the Enforcement First Immigration Act of 2005 that called for a new national Social Security card, a crackdown on employers who hired undocumented workers and bring a moratorium on immigrant visas for Mexican citizens. [Hayworth Targets Migrants with Immigration Bill, by Billy House and Susan Carroll, Arizona Republic, September 2, 2005]
· Arlen Specter (Pennsylvania): Speaking as a Pennsylvania resident, I cannot imagine why anyone would vote for Specter.
Throughout his endless thirty year Senate career (the longest in Pennsylvania history), Specter has been terrible on our two key issues, immigration and American jobs.
Specter may or may not survive his primary challenge against the relatively unknown U.S. Representative Joe Sestak. And, unfortunately, Sestak is no better than Specter on immigration (D-)
But should Specter prevail, he won't win in November against former Congressman Pat Toomey. The polling for Specter is all bad. In March, Specter led Toomey 49-42; in April, Toomey leads, 46-41. [Toomey Starts April with Strong Polling Numbers, by Marc Levy, Associated Press, April 8, 2010].
The reason, by the way, that Specter changed parties from Republican to Democrat is because he knew he couldn't beat Toomey in the GOP primary. But Specter can run but he can't hide from Toomey.
(A cautionary note about Toomey, however. While his immigration grade in Congress was a strong B-, he's a vigorous supporter of Club for Growth.)
Some of these nogoodniks will survive. Some of their replacements may not be much better. And, glaringly, there are no announced immigration moratorium candidates in the mix.
But things can't improve at all until the worst, most entrenched are defeated.
Don't forget that my overview doesn't include incumbents that won't be challenged in primaries but are nonetheless unlikely to survive November—like Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid!
If the prospect of Reid's defeat doesn't comfort you, then you can't be comforted.
Joe Guzzardi [email him] is a California native who recently fled the state because of over-immigration, over-population and a rapidly deteriorating quality of life. He has moved to Pittsburgh, PA where the air is clean and the growth rate stable. A long-time instructor in English at the Lodi Adult School, Guzzardi has been writing a weekly column since 1988. It currently appears in the Lodi News-Sentinel.