Presidential contender Michele Bachmann brought her floundering campaign into Arizona today, giving a special shout-out to embattled State Senate President Russell Pearce for his role as the architect of the state's controversial SB 1070 "papers please" law.
While misery loves company, Bachmann's dismal ranking in the polls behind Republican frontrunners Mitt Romney, Herman Cain and Rick Perry, only served to remind Arizonans of Pearce's own campaign hijinks and sinking ship in his historic recall election, set to take place on November 8th.
In one of the biggest campaign flops in recent memory, an estimated 350-400 true believers barely covered the first rows in the 13,000-seat Hohokam baseball stadium for a Pearce rally in Mesa last Friday. The self-proclaimed "Tea Party President," Pearce had heavily advertized and touted the event as the mother of all political rallies in Arizona, featuring a who's-who's lineup of hardline right-wing lawmakers, including perennial candidate and former American Constitution Party leader Tom Tancredo, who declared "the American way of life" was at stake.
While Pearce had defiantly declared his extremist policies had placed Arizona "at the front of the parade" at a debate last week with his opponent Jerry Lewis, a moderate Republican accountant and educator and Mormon leader, Pearce took the stage on Friday in front of a sea of empty seats and bleachers.
photo courtesy of Brenda Rascon
"I felt as though I was surrounded by political has-beens, by people who had been damaged by their own destructive brand of politics," said long-time Mesa resident Brenda Rascon, who lives in Pearce's district. "There was a feeling of sadness in the air accompanied by half-hearted speeches that bordered on pathetic and didn't seem to give State Senate President Pearce the encouragement and peace he may have been seeking."
Earlier this month, the Pearce campaign nearly staged its own shipwreck, after Pearce supporters and family members were caught in a backdoor effort to prop up a sham candidate to siphon votes away from Lewis' growing and broad bipartisan campaign.
Appearing at the Capitol in Phoenix today, Bachmann also stressed her support for Arizona's quixotic legislation that overrules federal jurisdiction and requires convict labor and private donations to build the state's own fence along certain stretches of the US-Mexico border.
But that Tea Party-led legislative salvo, as well as the court-challenged SB 1070, "was not the law that started it all," as Pearce wrote in an essay last spring.
Five years ago, Pearce drew national attention for another solution to immigration from Mexico: In a September, 2006 interview with NPR-affiliate KJZZ, Pearce declared: "We know what we need to do. In 1953, Dwight D. Eisenhower put together a task force called 'Operation Wetback.' He removed, in less than a year, 1.3 million illegal aliens. They must be deported."