As the Republican presidential race drags on into the fall, the Perry campaign is beginning to lose support among the conservative base. I say this mostly because of poor reception Rick Perry received during the Fox News/Google Debate after he displayed a seemingly tolerant, un-hawkish posture during a question about illegal immigration. Responding to a viewer-submitted question that asked what he was going to do to prevent the “illegals” from taking American jobs, Perry failed to woo the conservative base with the usual xenophobic outrage exhibited by the rest of the Republican primary field.
GOV. PERRY: Well, I feel pretty normal getting criticized by these folks. But the fact of the matter is this, there is nobody on this stage who has spent more time working on border security than I have. For a decade I’ve been the governor of a state with a 1,200- mile border with Mexico. We put $400 million of our taxpayer money into securing that border. We’ve got our Texas Ranger recon teams there now. I supported Arizona’s immigration law by joining in that lawsuit to defend it. Every day I have Texans on that border that are doing their job.
But if you say that we should not educate children who have come into our state for no other reason than they’ve been brought there by no fault of their own, I don’t think you have a heart. We need to be educating these children because they will become a drag on our society.
I think that’s what Texans wanted to do. Out of 181 members of the Texas legislature when this issue came up, only four dissenting votes. This was a state issue. (Bell rings.) Texans voted on it. And I still support it greatly. (Cheers, boos, applause.)
It’s difficult to imagine that a Republican voter (or anybody) who disagrees with Perry on the illegal immigration education issue is going to take kindly to being defined as “heartless”. Mitt Romney was quick to respond to Perry’s heart/no-heart binary classification of people, and told a conservative audience in Florida yesterday:
“I think if you’re opposed to illegal immigration, it doesn’t mean that you don’t have a heart; it means that you have a heart and a brain.”
If there’s one thing to be learned thus far from the Republican Presidential Primary, it’s that ideology always trumps reality when it comes to winning the base. Now, the current Tea Party/Conservative Base favorite and front-runner has to deal with the consequences of being a governor in the real world.