As the eight Republican candidates slog their way toward the 2012 nomination, Texas governor Rick Perry has one insurmountable obstacle. Perry’s profile is disturbingly similar to former president (and Texas governor) George W. Bush: token conservatives, Christians who mix politics and religion and open borders advocates. No matter what Perry does or says in the 15 months he has left to convince Republicans that he’s their man, he can’t change his spots unless….Perry takes a tough stand on immigration, a core Republican issue.
But incredibly, Perry embraces Bush’s identical immigration views. And based on last night’s CNN/Tea Party Republican Presidential debate in Florida, Perry isn’t budging.
Like Bush, Perry has had an openly friendly relationship with Mexico. To be sure, there’s nothing wrong with good feelings between neighboring countries assuming it’s mutually beneficial. A prime example: Perry promoted the Trans Texas Corridor that would have built a super-highway from Mexico to the U.S. heartland. That would have been good for Mexico but bad for Americans.
Going into last night’s debate, Perry’s immigration positions were well known and a source of deep Republican concern. On immigration, Perry sounds more like Nancy Pelosi than a legitimate GOP presidential contender. Perry’s against a border fence ("Building fence from Brownsville to El Paso just isn’t practical,"” opposed to E-Verify ("would not make a hill of beans difference") and for the DREAM Act (“educacion es el futuro y si se puede”) and guest worker programs (“…takes undocumented workers off the black market”).
Instead of using the debate as a forum to move away from his immigration advocacy, Perry dug in. Perry insisted that the Texas DREAM Act would help illegal immigrants who he claims are eager to contribute to the state’s economic future. When Perry insisted that the DREAM Act is the "American way," the audience booed him.
Right now, even with a year to until the convention, it’s hard to imagine that Perry could capture the nomination even if he were suddenly change his immigration positions. In the Internet era, once a politician makes a statement, especially something his opponents can use against him, it becomes part of his permanent record.
Read the entire debate transcript here.