The Washington Times - August 25, 2010, 03:55PM

It seems folks didn’t quite know what to make of Sen. John McCain’s primary victory on Tuesday over former Rep. J.D. Hayworth.

Despite McCain tacking to the right and embracing an immigration enforcement-first position to try to neutralize Hayworth’s strong stand on the issue, one immigrant-rights group declared McCain’s victory a loss for those who want a crackdown on illegal immigration.


“Elected officials should take note of Hayworth’s and other extremists’ failures: Americans don’t want demagoguery; they want practical, lasting solutions. A campaign built on demonizing immigrants does not pay off electorally,” said Rudy Lopez, field and political director for the Campaign for Community Change.

But that’s exactly the sort of campaign Democrats said McCain ran, too. In fact, the Democratic National Committee said McCain had essentially become a clone of Hayworth during the campaign.

“The complete takeover of the Republican Party by the Tea Party has included taking over the soul of a senator who was once the face of comprehensive immigration reform and who now would just build the ‘danged fence,’” said DNC spokesman Hari Sevugan after McCain’s victory.

Those diametrically opposed interpretations are not surprising, given the path McCain has traveled to win the nomination. Though he himself scoffed at the charge, political observers said the McCain that won the nomination in Arizona is very different from the McCain that ran for the Republican presidential nomination in 2000, and even from the one who challenged Barack Obama in 2008.

In truth, McCain didn’t so much change positions as change the emphasis. For example, he still supports a broad immigration deal to legalize illegal immigrants, but in his primary he placed far more emphasis on securing the borders first.

The question now is whether he shifts the emphasis back to the 2000-era McCain for the general election.

— Stephen Dinan