Chances are, something about illegal immigration makes you mad.

One way we know that is a striking exit poll conducted during the 2006 Republican primary by the Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy at Brigham Young University.

Results of the poll showed that 88 percent of voters thought the issue of illegal immigration was important to their decision between incumbent Rep. Chris Cannon and challenger John Jacob in the race of Utah's 3rd District congressional seat.

June 2006 was awash in national attention about the Cannon-Jacob contest. Of all the zany ideas, CNN came to our Orem newsroom to interview me about the race. The whole thing reminded many people of June 2004, when tons of out-of-state money from immigration special-interest groups poured into the campaign coffers of Cannon and his Republican opponent that year, Matt Throckmorton.

Fast forward to June 2008 and the latest Cannon primary battle, and the Bush administration and Congress still haven't managed to do anything to reform immigration in this country.

That should make all of us mad.

Meanwhile, Cannon's back asking for your vote and facing yet another primary with a challenger attacking him on illegal immigration. Cannon has high marks from many national immigration groups, but challenger Jason Chaffetz, as was Jacob and Throckmorton, is less compromising.

For example, Chaffetz wants to repeal the right of citizenship the Constitution provides to every child born in the United States.

But Chaffetz learned the lesson reflected in the exit poll, which is that our obvious distress over immigration problems doesn't make this political race a single-item referendum.

One quarter of those who voted in that 2006 GOP primary said illegal immigrants should be required to go home immediately.

About 40 percent said they should go home but some should be allowed to remain as guest workers.

That left 31 percent who said most should be allowed to stay, but only as temporary guest workers, and 5 percent who felt illegal immigrants should be allowed to stay permanently.

The hard-liners who wanted to deport everyone voted overwhelmingly for Jacob. The other three groups voted overwhelmingly for Cannon.

While opinions obviously may have shifted some over the past two year — 55 percent of Utahns supported a state law passed this year to toughen immigration policies — Chaffetz has established himself as a multiple-issue candidate.

That clearly helped Chaffetz earn a handy victory at the state Republican convention, but despite the result, there's no question Cannon is running his most effective campaign.

He's performed better than ever in debates and at conventions while his campaign staff has offered customized information packets on his record to convention delegates. There also are detailed fliers on his record and strong, specific responses to attacks by Chaffetz and former challenger David Leavitt.

One colorful flier touts what it calls 76 benefits Cannon has provided to the West, to Utah and to his district and asks voters to check out www.thetruthaboutchriscannon.com to cut through the "political spin."

For example, Leavitt accused Cannon of being "a voter, not an influencer" in Congress. The Cannon campaign response was that Cannon, according to govtrack.us, ranks 30th among all members of Congress, House and Senate, in passing legislation since 1993.

On Friday, Cannon's campaign sent out an e-mail to voters encouraging them to e-mail him, visit his Web site and read his blog.

"The next few weeks will be busy ones in Congress," he wrote. "I will not have the luxury of campaigning full-time."

But he promised to be accessible and said that voters will see a lot of TV commercials, mailers and e-mails from both him and Chaffetz.

One item of interest beyond the horse race will be how many ads will be about illegal immigration and whether out-of-state immigration groups take a similar interest in this year's race.


Utah County Bureau Chief Tad Walch lives with his wife and their five children in Provo, their home for the past 21 years. E-mail ">twalch@desnews.com.