Immigration is not as big an issue for voters as some people thought

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I’ve been busy writing my column, and I figure this blog really isn’t the place anybody turns to for election analysis. But one thing struck me about last night’s Republican results that is of some economic interest: Immigration wasn’t anywhere close to being a decisive issue. If it were, Romney would have done a lot better in California.

It wasn’t irrelevant. Romney did run stronger in counties where illegal immigration is a big issue. The only big county in the state that he won was Fresno County, a huge magnet for immigrants. And he came pretty close in San Diego County, right there on the border with Mexico, and in Orange County just north of it. But on the whole, immigration softie John McCain beat immigration hardliner Romney pretty decisively among Republican voters in Southern California.

This indicates to me that immigration is one of those issues that 5% or 10% of the population truly sees as priority No. 1, while the rest of us–whatever we tell the pollsters–care a lot more about other stuff. Which means there will always be a loud, scary uproar whenever any kind of amnesty bill is proposed in Congress, but probably no majority for any kind of serious crackdown. Which means it’s quite possible that, eight years from now, our immigration laws will be about the same as what we’ve got now.

Either that, or California Republicans just didn’t believe Romney’s immigration-hardliner schtick. In which case I don’t know what the election results mean.