GOP pri­mary gets tough on im­mi­gra­tion

San Francisco Chronicle Late Edition - - NATION - By Ben Nadler and Kate Brum­back Ben Nadler and Kate Brum­back are As­so­ci­ated Press writ­ers.

CLARKSTON, Ga. — The Re­pub­li­can gu­ber­na­to­rial pri­mary in Ge­or­gia is shap­ing up as a con­test over who’s tough­est on il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion, with cam­paigns fea­tur­ing a “de­por­ta­tion bus,” a pickup truck for do-ity­our­self im­mi­grant roundups, and lots of tough talk about “crim­i­nal il­le­gal aliens.”

The themes echo both the tone and rhetoric used by then-pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Don­ald Trump dur­ing the 2016 elec­tion. But they don’t take into ac­count the com­plex­i­ties of im­mi­gra­tion law, which clearly pro­hibits any of the would-be gov­er­nors from car­ry­ing out some of the tough im­mi­gra­tion en­force­ment mea­sures they are promis­ing.

State Sen. Michael Wil­liams, for­mer state co-chair for Trump’s campaign, ran an ad fea­tur­ing a “De­por­ta­tion Bus” that he says will be used to send home peo­ple in the coun­try il­le­gally. The back of the bus warns of mur­der­ers, rapists, kid­nap­pers, child mo­lesters and other crim­i­nals on board and says, “Fol­low me to Mex­ico.”

Sec­re­tary of State Brian Kemp boasted in a spot re­leased last week about own­ing a big truck, “in case I need to round up crim­i­nal il­le­gals and take ’em home my­self.”

The five-can­di­date Re­pub­li­can pri­mary on Tues­day is al­most def­i­nitely headed for a runoff. Lt. Gov. Casey Ca­gle is viewed as the fron­trun­ner, but likely won’t cap­ture the nec­es­sary ma­jor­ity in the first round of vot­ing.

With the pos­si­bil­ity of a per­cent­age point or two mean­ing the difference be­tween their mak­ing it into a runoff or go­ing home, the trail­ing can­di­dates are do­ing what they can to catch vot­ers’ at­ten­tion, said Univer­sity of Ge­or­gia po­lit­i­cal science pro­fes­sor Charles Bul­lock.

“It’s kind of like a poker game: ‘I’ll see you and raise you two,’ ” he said of the ex­treme rhetoric.

It may also be the Trump ef­fect.

“I think it’s in part be­cause Pres­i­dent Trump was able to use it suc­cess­fully to get elected him­self,” Emory Univer­sity po­lit­i­cal science pro­fes­sor An­dra Gille­spie said. “When he made the border wall an is­sue and made in­cen­di­ary rhetoric OK, it’s not sur­pris­ing that some can­di­dates would choose to fol­low his lead to try to repli­cate his play­book.”

Though that may work with the gen­er­ally more con­ser­va­tive pri­mary elec­torate, it could cause prob­lems in the gen­eral elec­tion in Novem­ber, Gille­spie said.

“Ge­or­gia is a state that is very much on the move in terms of its eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment,” she said, and in that re­spect peo­ple may not see a fire­brand as the best rep­re­sen­ta­tive.

Ben­jamin Nadler / As­so­ci­ated Press

A gu­ber­na­to­rial can­di­date tour­ing the state in a “de­por­ta­tion bus” is greeted with protests by im­mi­grants and other res­i­dents in Clarkston, Ga.

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