I just took a stroll through the press release archives at Camp Ogo. (Why? So you don’t have to. You can thank me later.) And I noticed something pretty interesting: for the first several months of his campaign, he didn’t seem to care much about immigration, illegal or otherwise.
Ogo announced his campaign on April 24. Here are the issues he discussed:
Congress is broken. It’s simply not doing a good job. It has become too partisan….
We start with the tax code. Our current tax system is unfair to working families….
Next we need to end wasteful government spending. No more bridges to nowhere. No more earmarks….
But we need to remember that we also live in a dangerous world…. During this campaign, we will spend a lot of time talking about the war in Iraq….
We can no longer be held hostage to foreign regimes who control vast amounts of the oil reserves…. First, we need to expand the use of ethanol and other oil alternatives…. Next, we need to rapidly expand our research and development of renewable energy sources. In addition to research, we need to offer incentives for businesses and homeowners who use renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power.
But it is not enough to just find new sources of energy; we must find new clean sources of energy…. A responsible energy policy, combined with sound environmental policy, is the future of American growth and prosperity.
This campaign will be about ideas and it will be about the future.
Quite a list of issues. But did you notice something missing? And no, I didn’t edit it out.
In fact, Team Ogo went through more than two months of regular press releases before saying anything about illegal immigration. On June 28, Ogo offered some “comments” on Congress’s failure to pass the Bush/Kennedy/McCain immigration reform bill. Here, for the first time in the campaign, we find a few comments about how illegal immigrants are lawbreakers and how “amnesty is not an option.” But even though the subject of the release is immigration, its emphasis is definitely still on the “Congress is broken” theme, and its general tone is far less hysterical than what was to come later.
The tone changes noticeably on July 17, the next mention of immigration. On that date, when Ogo turned in his signatures, he gave a laundry list of issues — and this time, right after Congress being broken, he says that people “want an immigration policy that secures our borders and does not include amnesty for those who have come here illegally.” That’s the first time the immigration issue got that kind of prominence.
And that appears to have been the turning point. The next day, Ogo talked about his “national readiness” plan which included the following, where Ogo for the first time linked immigration to “American lives”:
Three of the terrorists at Fort Dix in New Jersey entered the United States illegally by crossing the southern border. Just in the past few days, reports indicate that the FBI is investigating an illegal smuggling ring that has been bringing Iraqis across the Rio Grande from Mexico for more than a year. Congress’s continued failure to secure our border and reform our immigration laws puts American lives at risk.
About a week later (quoting comments made on July 19):
JIM OGONOWSKI ON SECURING OUR BORDERS – “… Ogonowski also said he does not believe amnesty to immigrants should be included in immigration reform. ‘I believe our nation’s border security and immigration system is broken, and leaving our borders unprotected threatens our national security,’ Ogonowski said.” -Lawrence Eagle-Tribune, 7/19
It seems that campaign manager Dustin Olson came on board around July 1 (he was referred by the NRCC); the first mention of him that I could find in the press releases is on July 10, a week before the immigration gloves came off. Coincidence? Or did Olson — whose long history of intensely partisan Republican contests including Bush-Cheney 04 and some White House time under Ken Mehlman does seem a tad inconsistent with the message of Mr. “Not a Partisan Politician” — make the call to up the rhetoric on immigration?