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The Los Angeles Times this week published its latest poll on 2008 presidential candidates , and the results looked bad for Mitt Romney: "Thirty-seven percent of those questioned said they would not vote for a Mormon presidential candidate."

Except, perhaps, that the connection between distaste for Romney and distaste for a Mormon president is not clear. Certain votes typically surpass their polls: Much higher tallies are commonly recorded against homosexual marriage, for instance, than pre-vote polls predicted. For a variety of reasons, the specific rejection is stronger than the generic one. But other votes run in the other direction: The general level of anti-Catholicism, for instance (measured by this Los Angeles Times poll at 10 percent of the electorate), is larger than the measurable effect of anti-Catholicism in any one Catholic candidate’s campaign.

I suspect that the effect of anti-Mormonism on Romney’s campaign will be similarly reduced. Still, a 37 percent generic rejection is a large burden to overcome.

For some weeks now, it has seemed certain that the impasse over immigration would not be resolved this year: The House and the Senate were too far apart on border enforcement, with the president even further away. (Though, forced to choose, he favored the Senate’s broader package of border security combined with guest-worker programs and new immigration policies.)

The smart political observer Michael Barone, however, writes that "three developments last week may be reviving the chance immigration will be passed. The first was the renomination of Utah Rep. Chris Cannon in the Republican primary on June 27. Cannon has supported guest-worker legislation and measures to allow children of illegal immigrants to pay in-state tuition to state colleges and universities. His opponent, John Jacob, spent thousands of his own dollars to attack Cannon for supporting ‘amnesty’ and actually led Cannon in the Republican convention, where incumbents are usually renominated routinely. Polls showed the race close. . . . If Cannon had lost, House Republicans surely would have panicked and stonewalled any approach but border-security-only. . . .

"The second development was an interview of Sen. Arlen Specter in The Washington Times on June 27. Specter is chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and supported the Senate bill. He would be the lead Senate voice in any conference committee. Specter still insists that the Senate will only accept a comprehensive bill. But he did concede that he might accept a version that made guest-worker and legalization programs contingent on concrete achievements in border security. . . .

"The third development was the meeting in the White House of Rep. Mike Pence with George W. Bush and Dick Cheney on June 28. Pence, chairman of the House Republican Study Committee, has advanced a guest-worker plan based on that of Colorado rancher Helen Krieble, which would allow workers to apply in their home countries to ‘Ellis Island centers’ run by private firms, which would match them with jobs from employers in the United States."

The movement isn’t all in one direction, however, and the New York Times this morning reported that the president was signaling his willingness to cave in to the hard-line Congress. "On the eve of nationwide hearings that could determine the fate of his immigration bill, President Bush is signaling a new willingness to negotiate with House Republicans in an effort to revise the stalled legislation before Election Day. Republicans both inside and outside the White House say Mr. Bush, who has long insisted on comprehensive reform, is now open to a so-called enforcement-first approach that would put new border security programs in place before creating a guest worker program or path to citizenship for people living in the United States illegally."

It would be unfortunate if, just at a moment at which progress was apparently being made in moving the Congress and the Senate together, Bush were to abandon the Senate’s version of immigration reform. The weakened White House cannot impose its solution on a recalcitrant Congress¯indeed, immigration bubbled up as a dominant conservative worry during the period of Bush’s greatest unpopularity¯but the incapacity to effect reforms both strong and moral will only add to the voters’ sense in the November elections that the Republicans are incompetent.

Of course, the public perception of Republican incompetence doesn’t help the Democrats much as long as those Democrats are perceived as even more incompetent¯or, better, feckless. "Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Connecticut, facing a tough challenge in the Democratic primary, is launching a separate petition effort to get on the November ballot as a precaution in case he does not win," the news read last weekend. And the need for Lieberman to hedge his bets this way? The apparent incapacity of the Democratic party to hold figures anymore in the Scoop Jackson mode. Any deviance from the protesters’ opposition to Iraq is being punished, and the Democrats might deliver to the November ballot their most whacko candidate slate in years. The Boston Globe this morning began its coverage of Lieberman’s campaign with an account , not of the candidate, but of the hecklers dogging him. There’s something odd in the way the grassroots of both parties are working these days, when a conservative like Chris Cannon in Utah can turn back the extremists in his campaign, and apparently a classic liberal like Joe Lieberman cannot.

In addition to which :

Father Richard John Neuhaus ventures into the Upper West Side of Manhattan on Wednesday, July 5, for a talk and book signing at Barnes & Noble. That is at 2289 Broadway at 82nd Street, beginning at 7pm. The book is Catholic Matters: Confusion, Controversy, and the Splendor of Truth . He says he would be pleased to see you there. For information, call 212 362-8835.

Of course we must work, and work assiduously, for better understanding of Islam and with Islam. But that better understanding begins with a relentlessly honest appreciation of the obstacles to anything like peaceful coexistence. Helping us to make that beginning is the great contribution of “Islam and Us” by George Cardinal Pell, Archbishop of Sydney, Australia. “Islam and Us” is among the compelling and informative articles in the June/July issue of First Things . Isn’t it time for you to subscribe to First Things ?

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