In 1994, when the Dems tried to paint him as a pro-187 extremist, it backfired. Wilson was the centrist. He won re-election handily; 187 passed. It would pass again tomorrow.
It's true that after 1994, the GOP Latino vote flagged and the GOP began running away from 187. Wilson, however, thinks the Republican Party can address the problems of illegal immigration while continuing to reach out to Latino voters.
The key is to hold the center -- and Wilson managed to do that, not running against fringies, but popular Democrats like Dianne Feinstein and Kathleen Brown.
If, Field Poll director Mark DiCamillo noted, you can occupy the center and "push Boxer to the ideological corner, to the liberal side, you put her on the defensive," he said. "The reason Boxer won initially, there were two candidates who occupied a corner and Boxer was more successful at appealing to moderates" than Bruce Herschensohn, who wanted to bring back the gold standard.
Then came Matt Fong, who, according to Boxer, deviated from the mainstream on abortion and gay rights.
Boxer also was aided by Democratic operative Bob Mulholland's 11th-hour accusation that Herschensohn frequented strip joints.
Lucky for Boxer, she's had two very middling GOP opponents. Her lucky streak likely would end if a savvy moderate like Pete Wilson threw his hat into the ring.