Texas Gov. Rick Perry's stance on immigration is causing an uproar among conservative voters, jeopardizing his front-runner position in the race for the Republican presidential nomination.
Perry's support of education benefits for illegal immigrants has led to a myriad of attacks and questions of character by fellow members of the Republican Party. Many more are even going as far as to say that Perry's done for
"If you say that we should not educate children who have come into our state for no other reason than they've been brought here by no fault of their own, I don't think you have a heart," Perry said at Thursday's Fox News/Google debate in Orlando.
Rivals are looking to take advantage of Perry's woes in Iowa. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is expected to step up his campaign presence in the state after visiting only twice this year. And Minnesota Rep Michelle Bachmann is focusing on Iowa to reclaim the attention she stirred in the state before Perry entered the race. In an interview with Fox News, top Perry strategist Dave Carney said the notion the governor is floundering is "more wishful thinking from other camps." And Perry supporters note that he entered the presidential race just six weeks ago, a very late start.
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who ran for president in 2008, feels that Perry's debate performance shows he's not ready for the pressure of the presidential spotlight yet, particularly his answer on the immigration issue. Huckabee believes that Perry should have answered the question in a way that would have defused the issue. Perry arrived to great fanfare and seemed poised to steal significant support from his top rival, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. Many influential Republican activists saw Perry, with his executive experience and good jobs record, as an attractive alternative to Romney, who has struggled to win over conservatives who make up a sizeable portion of the party base. Since then, the Texan has campaigned repeatedly in New Hampshire and Iowa, states that host the nation's first presidential voting contests in roughly four months. And unaligned Republicans in those states -- including some who backed Romney four years ago and are looking for an alternative -- have watched Perry closely this month to see if the early buzz would become lasting campaign strength. But his debate performances, including bobbled attempts Thursday night in Florida at painting Romney as a flip-flopper, did not impress some influential activists.
Besides accusing Romney of being a flip-flopper and suggesting opponents of Texas' immigration law are heartless, he gave a wobbly response to a question on Pakistan, making him seem unprepared. He has drawn sharp criticism for requiring 6th-grade girls in Texas to be vaccinated against a sexually transmitted virus that can cause cancer, a position that frustrates libertarians and social conservatives alike.