Arizona's political landscape looks entirely different now than it did last year.
In November of 2009, four-term incumbent and former presidential candidate John McCain was neck and neck with J.D. Hayworth for the Republican Senate nomination. A Rasmussen poll pegged McCain at 45 percent and Hayworth, a talk radio host and Tea Party candidate, at 43.
Jan Brewer, meanwhile, had not even completed her first year as governor (as Arizona secretary of state, she replaced Janet Napolitano in January of 2009 when Napolitano was appointed secretary of Homeland Security). She'd already butted heads with Arizona's conservative establishment by pitching a tax increase to plug the state's deficit. Outside of Arizona, she was virtually unheard of.
Fast forward 10 months, and McCain is leading Hayworth by 20 points, and Brewer not only has a lock on the governor's race but has become a national conservative icon whose endorsement is coveted by candidates in other states. The force behind the shift? Both McCain and Brewer have expertly identified and navigated the politics of the moment: immigration control.
For Brewer, signing Arizona's tough new immigration law in April set her star on the rise. Instantly, she was all over the TV networks and conservative blogs. Her heroism within conservative circles was cemented once the Obama administration took on the law. Whining over her proposed tax hike was soon subsumed by publicity about her immigration policies. Her two most serious Republican challengers dropped out of the race and she is expected to glide to victory tomorrow.