The Political Impact of SB 1070

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Director of ASU’s School of Government, Politics and Global Studies Dr. Patrick Kenney and ASU Political Science Professor Emeritus Dr. Bruce Merrill talk about how the battle over Arizona’s immigration law could impact the upcoming elections and the political landscape in both Arizona and the nation’s capitol.

Ted Simons: The fight for and against senate bill 1070 is all but certain to have an impact at the ballot box this familiar. Here to talk about the potential winners and losers are ASU professor eemeritus of political science, Dr. Bruce Merrill and Professor Patrick Kenney, chairman of ASU's political science department. Good to have you both here. Let's start with -- let's go general and fine tune it as we go along. The political impact overall of SB 1070, what are you seeing?

Dr. Bruce Merrill: Well, certainly in the campaign, let me put it this way. Had Jan Brewer not signed 1070, she would have had no chance to become the next governor of Arizona whatsoever. She wouldn't have got out of the Republican primary. The right wing of the party was already mad at her because of 100. Had she not supported 1070, she would have had a very difficult time I think. I think it would have been a completely different outcome.

Ted Simons: Does this have -- is this one issue have the potential now, all the way through November, to literally dominate the GOP side?

Dr. Bruce Merrill L: Well, there's so many things that would matter. If this is held unconstitutional in the courts, that's going to have a lot of implications because it could shift the political agenda more to the economy and jobs and those are big issues in Arizona too. So it depends to some degree what happens in the courts now I think. But I don't think there's much question that it will dominate the agenda at this point.

Ted Simons: Patrick, as far as -- let's stay with the primary season and we'll start with Republicans. Easily, number one, two, three, four, five, as far as issues are concerned?

Patrick Kenney: It's clearly one of the top two for sure. But the economy remains to be the top issue for Republicans, and in particular, as it's related to state spending in Arizona. So the Republicans have been very interested in holding the line on state spending. Stimulus money runs out over the next year, gradually out of -- over the next year, and so Republicans are again if they held the legislature, are faced with that economic issue. Clearly immigration is one, two with the economy. Fit was not a recession, it's clear number one. But we still remain in a recession.

Ted Simons: Yet we saw Buz Mills, one of the gubernatorial candidates, basically say I'm dropping out because no one seems to care about job creation and the economy anymore, it's all about immigration.

Patrick Kenney: He was running a long ways behind in the polls and it was costing him a lot of money. So I think if he had been close he could have kept in the race and tried to push other issues. But if he's trailing so much, I think it's a strategy calculation.

Ted Simons: As far as the GOP primary, tops, 1070 tops?

Dr. Bruce Merrill: Well, I agree completely with pat. I still think that politics is always local and personal. It really in Arizona there's a lot of people hurting. And it gets down to jobs, ultimately. What's happening to me is the interaction of two things. Because so many independents that are more moderate have left both political parties, the discussion, the rhetoric between the parties has become very ideological -- and it's really not even close I think to the average voter out there. The second thing is the media itself. We have always handled -- we've always had illegal immigration. It's always about problem. But if the media focuses on it, then it builds it even to a much higher crescendo. And that's what's happened to a large degree.

Ted Simons: Is this the kind of thing that's taking Bruce's point, as far as the Republican party is concerned, will moderates feel themselves alienated? Will they be pushed -- be feeling pushed out because they may not agree with SB 1070 or at least not agree with it as vociferously as others.

Patrick Kenney: It probably has long-term and short-term impacts. Most polls show their support for some kind of legislation that looks like SB 1070 in the short-term. And certainly Republicans in Arizona would be supportive of that. Long-term, if one piece of data is what happened after prop 187 in California, where after that the expansion, the Democratic party coming from minority populations in California really helped the Democratic party probably. And so long-term the Republicans may be hurting themselves in the state, but I mean long-term over another decade or so.

Ted Simons: Do you think the California model could apply in Arizona?

Dr. Bruce Merrill: It completely agree with Patrick. It's -- I think the interesting thing to me is that this isn't about being in the country illegally or not. As a political scientist, I think one has to say you break the law or you don't. And we don't selectively in a nation of laws do that. To me, it's the real question is, we've got a problem. And it's how we deal with the problem in this 1070 the most effective way in terms -- the state, I that I lot of people don't understand how bad the state is being hurt economically in terms of public opinion, and as Pat says in the long-term, you have to go back to the Mecham years there. May be companies that don't move here. With a political instability that we have in this state, one thing new business needs is stability. And I think there are long-term potential consequences for this that we haven't really looked at.

Ted Simons: Compare that, what Bruce is saying, that particular outlook, and what we're seeing around the country which is state legislatures all over the place deciding they want to be the next Arizona. What's going on here?

Patrick Kenney:- I think one thing that's going on is immigration is not on the border. You have smaller communities throughout the country being affected by quick and fairly sizable immigration. And there's a long history in the United States of reaction time grace, especially fit happens quickly. And one kind of response is that -- is the state and local governments start to take action or think about ways to take action on this kind of stuff. And so it's an election year, and if public opinion is running about what we think it is, at least over the majority support of more restrictive legislation on this, you're going to see legislation at least talking about it so they can talk about that on the campaign trail.

Ted Simons: And have you seen how often have you seen, if ever, a single issue catapult candidate as it has, as this issue has Governor Brewer? Does this happen very often?

Dr. Bruce Merrill: Not in Arizona. But I think it clearly did. If you looked at -- we were following her for many, many months, and frankly she was not doing well in the polls. But I think as Pat has suggested, I really think the underlying things even with immigration, to some degree, is the economy. When you have mass unemployment, when you have fear about the economic future a lot of people, I think it's easy to scapegoat, to find something you can take that frustration out. And I think to some degree that that's happening. We don't like to use those words of scapegoating and things, but the issue is a very complex one. And this is something that people that have a lot of frustration could, because of the rhetoric, can agree with or disagree with without understanding all of the implications of it.

Ted Simons: Let's go to the Democratic side as far as the primaries are concerned. How does 1070 affect them?

Patrick Kenney: Well, one thing the vote on this has been a straight party line vote almost for certain. There might be an exception, but it's been a straight party line vote. So one thing you see, the Democratic house members who are in close races here out last week were fairly outspoken saying, they didn't think the lawsuit was the right time. And so they're cautious. Because -- I don't know about the primary. I think in their primaries they'll be fine. I don't think it's a big issue within the Democratic primary. But they're cautious about the general election because they don't would be to the -- on the wrong side of this issue. It's just 90 days away, roughly.

Ted Simons: Gabriel Gifford, Kirkpatrick, all seen as being someone vulnerable as far as their seats are concerned. How does 1070 affect them come general election time?

Dr. Bruce Merrill: As Pat has said, from the partisan division about 85% of the Republicans are for 1070, 85% of the democrats are opposed. The key in many states including Arizona is this growing independent group. From my polls right now, it looks like they're splitting about 60/40 towards favoring 1070. So democrats have to be very cautious of that because if they get all of their votes out because there's about the same number of democrats, republicans, and independents now. So the key thing is going to be how are they going to handle this, the democrats, with the independents? Because I think that's going to be the key.

Ted Simons: Down ticket items, attorney general treasurer, superintendent of public instruction. Will they be impacted more than things at the top of the ticket?

Dr. Bruce Merrill: Sure. I think Andrew Thomas for instance would not be nearly as viable a candidate as he will be because of his outspoken support for 1070. And so, yeah, I think it will affect potentially a lot of races. I think it could result in the legislature being a little bit more conservative next year.

Ted Simons: Terry Goddard is saying that jobs are his number one priority. That's the number one priority, that's what it is, it always has been, and it sounds like you both believe the economy and jobs is foremost on most people's minds, and yet it seems as though everyone wants to talk about immigration. How does it impact the Goddard campaign? Is anyone listening?

Patrick Kenney: I think -- I was just wondering about that this week. I think the Goddard campaign has to stay on jobs. Let's going to have to engage the issue. As Bruce was talking about earlier, this is the number one issue for the incumbent and the media is following that. There's national attention on it. He cannot get away from this issue. He's got to get involved. He's going to have to be clear about where he is, because she's taken such a clear position. So he's not going to be able to be ambiguous like sometimes you see politicians be. Or more nuanced. I don't think he can be. But what I was thinking about the Goddard campaign, I haven't seen much about his campaign. I don't know what his coffers look like, I would think he should be spending more, and maybe he's waiting for the end of the primary. But we know Jan Brewer is going to be the candidate, I think, and so I think he needs to engage quickly as possible.

Ted Simons: What do you think, Bruce?

Dr. Bruce Merrill: I really agree with that. I think the problem Terry is going to have too is running clean. You don't have a lot of money. The idea of clean elections makes sense in the -- in getting new young people and not having a lot of money. If you get $750,000, whatever you get from clean elections, that's one mass mailing. That is not enough to do what pat is suggesting. He has got to come up, in my opinion, there's only one thing that can save him. And that is to come up with the Goddard plan to rebuild the economy in Arizona. It's got to be clear, it's got to be decisive and he's got to run on that. I think that's the only chance he has.

Ted Simons: Basically he has to be as clear and decisive on the economy as the governor is right now on immigration.

Patrick Kenney: And that's a bread and butter Democratic issue. There's a lot of research that shows what we call owned issues and democrats toned own these jobs issues. And he needs engage that. He just -- but he can't duck the immigration issue.

Dr. Bruce Merrill: Not only that, I think -- so I agree with pat because it's like McCain. I don't think it does any good to pander to a position that you don't -- I don't think they'll vote for it anyway. So I think he's much better off by making very clear his support and why he supports it.

Ted Simons: All right. Very good. Thank you so much for joining us.

Dr. Patrick Kenney:Director, School of Government, Politics and Global Studies, ASU;Dr. Bruce Merrill:Political Science Professor Emeritus, ASU;

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