The Washington Times - June 25, 2008, 09:32AM

When Rep. Chris Cannon lost in the Republican primary for his congressional seat last night, it sent the message that immigration can still be a winning issue at the ballot box for Republicans. The problem is, it appears only to work on other Republicans.

Jason Chaffetz, a former chief of staff to Utah’s governor, Republican Jon Huntsman, Jr., pounded away on immigration to defeat Cannon, who is serving his sixth term in the House and has amassed a strong conservative record on nearly every other issue. It’s the third time Cannon faced a primary challenge centered on the immigration issue.

Cannon has been a curious study on immigration. He was one of President Bush’s closest allies in pushing for a guest-worker program, but has also kept a fairly hard-line voting record on bills calling for a crack-down on illegal immigration.

His defeat comes even as House Democrats have found candidates willing to run in conservative districts professing their own get-tough message, which has helped take the sting out of the Republican-Democratic fight on the issue.

That means immigration is still a roiling issue — but so far, it appears to be best used to unseat Republicans. That’s not the effect Republicans had hoped for.

Stephen Dinan, national political correspondent, The Washington Times