Election 2008: Is the anti-immigrant movement running out of political steam?

If you ever listen to AM talk radio, you know that immigration is one of the hottest hot-button issues for the political right. But as the Wall Street Journal notes, immigration hard-liners were big losers in the 2008 elections -- especially in the South:

Virginia Republican Congressman Virgil Goode's narrow loss toDemocrat Tom Perriello became official last week, and it caps anotherbad showing for immigration restrictionists. For the second straightelection, incumbent Republicans who attempted to turn illegalimmigration into a wedge issue fared poorly.

Anti-immigration hardliners Randy Graf, John Hostettler and J.D.Hayworth were among the Republicans who lost in 2006. Joining them thisyear were GOP Representatives Thelma Drake (Virginia), Tom Feeney(Florida), Ric Keller (Florida) and Robin Hayes (North Carolina) -- allMembers of a House anti-immigration caucus that focuses on demonizingthe undocumented.

Rep. Goode was one of the most vocal foes of immigrants: The 12-year incumbent advocated mass deportations and amending the Constitution to deny U.S. citizenship to children of undocumented residents.

The anti-immigrant movement may have suffered a double defeat in 2008. Not only did immigrant scapegoating not elect its purveyors -- it may have also inflicted long-term damage on Republican political prospects by alienating the growing Latino vote. As the WSJ observes:

[E]xit polls showed that the Republican share of the Hispanic vote fellto 31% this year from more than 40% in 2004. The demographic reality isthat the GOP can't win national elections while losing such a largeshare of the fastest-growing ethnic minority in the country.