Immigration was a major focus of the closely watched Republican primary in the North Carolina's second congressional district.
But it wasn't a priority among the majority of Republican primary voters who picked incumbent Rep. Renee Ellmers to again represent them in November’s midterm election, according to a new poll conducted by Public Opinion Strategies and paid for by the Michael Bloomberg-sponsored pro-overhaul group Partnership for a New American Economy.
The North Carolina Republican was once a Tea Party favorite. But she caused a ruckus when she publicly called for an immigration overhaul that would legalize millions of people in the country without documentation.
She was skewered on the right. Conservative radio host Laura Ingraham accused Ellmers of supporting "de facto amnesty." Ellmers responded that Ingraham had an "ignorant position."
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Ellmers’s challenger, Frank Roche, made immigration his top issue.
The poll conducted Tuesday after voters cast their ballots found that Ellmers’s immigration position didn’t matter to 59 percent of her voters. They also ranked immigration as the least important issue.
The race became a test case in the Republican primaries for supporters of an overhaul and those wary of the political consequences of supporting such a controversial issue.
The Republican struggle over how and whether to push an immigration bill continues to plague an already divided party. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, has said he wants to find a solution for the 11 million in the country illegally, but hardcore conservatives have fought back any proposal that might offer them a legal means to remain.
The poll’s authors say the issue of immigration didn’t impact voters’ decisions nor lead them to stay home and not vote.
“It is clear that immigration was not a top tier issue for voters in this primary,” said pollster Glen Bolger, a partner at Public Opinion Strategies.
Advocates of an immigration overhaul hope Ellmers’s victory will give other wary Republicans the confidence to support an overhaul.