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Immigration Plays Major Role In Arizona Primary

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Immigration Plays Major Role In Arizona Primary

Immigration Plays Major Role In Arizona Primary

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As Cokie mentioned, Arizona has some closely watched races. On the Republican side, of course, one of the party's biggest names, John McCain, he's going for his fifth term as U.S. senator; and Governor Jan Brewer is seeking her first full term. NPR's Ted Robbins reports.

TED ROBBINS: The polls once showed John McCain was vulnerable to a challenge from the right of his own party. Late last year, former radio talk show host and former Congressman J.D. Hayworth was tied with McCain. He'd been smacking him around for months over the senator's support for a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants.

Former Representative J.D. HAYWORTH (Republican, Arizona): It is about time you represent we the people of the United States of America and your Arizona constituents, instead of illegal invaders and criminal trespassers.

ROBBINS: McCain, the old Navy pilot, seemed to take to heart the quote from legendary British Admiral Horatio Nelson that time is everything. He tacked to the right, and began running ads on Hayworth's own radio show, even before Hayworth entered the race.

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Senator JOHN MCCAIN (Republican, Arizona): President Obama is leading an extreme left-wing crusade to bankrupt America. I stand in his way every day.

ROBBINS: McCain brought in his 2008 vice presidential running mate Sarah Palin. The former self-described maverick disavowed that label. And he's been attacking Hayworth over his congressional record, his ties to disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff and his hosting an infomercial for a company promising free money from the government.

(Soundbite of radio ad)

Unidentified Man: J.D. Hayworth, pork barrel spender, lobbyist, huckster...

Mr. MATT BUNK (Managing Editor, Arizona Capitol Times): Every time you turn on the television, you see a commercial.

ROBBINS: Matt Bunk is managing editor of the Arizona Capitol Times. He says the ads have worked - not just because of their frequency, but also because Hayworth was open to attack.

Mr. BUNK: It turned out that way, he wasn't the strongest candidate to be challenging McCain.

ROBBINS: John McCain has spent nearly $20 million on the primary - 10 times what Hayworth has raised. The latest polls show McCain with a 20-point lead.

On the Democratic side, one of four untested candidates will face McCain or Hayworth in November.

In the Governor's race, Republican Jan Brewer had been struggling since taking over after Democrat Janet Napolitano resigned to become DHS secretary. Brewer was down in the polls, little known, facing a huge state budget deficit. But since April 23rd, none of that has mattered.

Governor JAN BREWER (Republican, Arizona): I will now sign Senate Bill 1070.

ROBBINS: Brewer's decision to sign Arizona's tough anti-immigration law is popular among Arizona voters, especially Republicans, though much of the law is on hold, awaiting a court hearing. Brewer became one of the highest-profile Republicans in the country. One by one, her opponents have dropped out.

Bruce Merrill is a pollster and former professor at Arizona State University.

Mr. BRUCE MERRILL (Pollster, Former Professor, Arizona State University): I can assure you, that if she had not signed 1070, she would have had no chance to get the Republican nomination.

ROBBINS: On the Democratic side, there's always been only one candidate: Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard. Goddard opposed SB 1070. And after once leading Brewer, Goddard now trails her in one poll, by 19 percent.

Having sewn up their nominations, both candidates for governor are already looking toward November. Their campaigns have begun turning away from immigration, and started fighting over who can best fix Arizona's struggling economy.

Ted Robbins, NPR News, Tucson.

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