According to an interesting article on www.chron.com: “A number of voters interviewed said that while they continued to disagree with McCain on immigration, they appreciated his honesty and liked his stance on other issues, particularly foreign policy…The immigration issue also failed to hurt Mike Huckabee, who won the GOP caucuses in Iowa Thursday despite being attacked for backing college scholarships to illegal immigrants while Arkansas’ governor.”
If candidates’ pro-immigrant stances fail to deter GOP caucus-goers in the primaries where anti-immigration feelings are most prevalent, it should have even less of an effect in the general elections. On the other hand, those candidates who demonize immigrants to move ahead in the primaries will have a great deal of trouble garnering the Hispanic vote in the general election. I believe that those voters who have family members or friends who have been affected by the recent anti-immigration movement will hold a grudge against those candidates who support the current climate. Those voters who can be swayed (independents or undecided voters as opposed to hard-core Republicans), who may oppose allowing any earned legalization for the undocumented, will probably vote for candidates on bread and butter issues rather than on immigration.
My advice would be for the candidates to steer clear of the topic of immigration whenever possible as there is no winning political position on this volatile issue.