- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 28, 2006

PROVO, Utah — It was Rep. Chris Cannon’s name on the Republican primary ballot here Tuesday, but it was President Bush’s resilient popularity in this conservative state that helped him beat back a challenge based almost entirely on his stance on immigration reform.

“It’s hard to beat an incumbent,” challenger John Jacob told The Washington Times after losing by double digits to Mr. Cannon on Tuesday night. “It’s even harder to beat President Bush here.”

Mr. Cannon’s lopsided win — with 32,306 votes (56 percent) to 25,589 votes (44 percent) for Mr. Jacob — vindicates the immigration policies of Mr. Bush and Mr. Cannon, Mr. Jacob said.

The race, costing more than $1 million, garnered national attention from both sides of the immigration debate eager to see how the issue would play out in an election outside a border state. Polling conducted in the final weeks of the campaign had suggested a much closer contest.

Throughout the race, Mr. Jacob and others accused Mr. Cannon of supporting what they called “amnesty” proposals that Mr. Bush endorsed. The five-term congressman was vilified as Mr. Bush’s “point man” in Congress on the issue of immigration.

Mr. Cannon and Mr. Bush both support “comprehensive” immigration reform that tightens border security and creates a guest-worker program for the estimated 10 million to 12 million illegal aliens in the country.

Anything short of deportation for illegals, Mr. Jacob said, amounts to amnesty. Deporting that many people, Mr. Cannon said, is not feasible.

In radio commercials and in his campaign, Mr. Jacob suggested that the solution was simple.

Utah’s 3rd District voters “know that it’s never too hard to do the right thing,” said one Jacob commercial, “even if it means helping 12 million people go back home and do it right.”

His campaign, sometimes amateurish, tried to appeal to voters’ principles and fears in this conservative and strictly Mormon district more than 800 miles from the Mexican border.

“What’s at stake?” continued the radio ad. “It’s what’s always at stake: simple integrity. And being safe in our homes.”

Mr. Bush, who remains popular here even as his approval ratings have fallen nationally, rushed to Mr. Cannon’s aid with a radio commercial that dominated the airwaves. Mr. Bush and first lady Laura Bush both recorded telephone messages in support of Mr. Cannon that flooded voters’ answering machines here.

One Cannon ad accused Mr. Jacob’s supporters of trying to tarnish Mr. Bush and splinter the Republican Party in Utah.

“People, especially in Utah, are not happy with bashing the president,” Mr. Cannon told The Washington Times. “Republicans want a solution. They don’t want divisiveness.”

Even Mr. Jacob seemed awestruck by the barrage of Bush ads. “When he brings in the president, I’m impressed,” he said.

In the final days of the campaign, Mr. Jacob had to battle charges that he once enjoyed gambling and that he had paid under the table a Chilean couple working here legally.

He also became the target of endless jokes after he told the editorial board of the Salt Lake Tribune that Satan had intervened in his business deals.

Mr. Cannon called the primary a defeat for Jacob supporters outside Utah, including the Team America Political Action Committee founded by Rep. Tom Tancredo, Colorado Republican.

“They chose the candidate. They chose the message,” Mr. Cannon said. “This is their loss.”

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