Media-designated GOP frontrunner Mitt Romney plans to put Rick Perry's feet to the fire for not hating undocumented workers enough. Here's former Bush speechwriter Marc Thiessen dissecting Romney's campaign strategy in the Washington Post:
The Romney campaign also plans to use immigration to drive a wedge between Perry and his conservative base, by highlighting Perry's opposition to a border fence and legislation he signed in 2001 allowing the children of illegal immigrants to attend Texas colleges and universities at in-state tuition. Without mentioning Perry by name, Romney pointed out at a town hall here in Dover that he vetoed similar legislation as governor of Massachusetts, declaring, "If you say, guess what, if you come here illegally, your kids will get [in-state tuition], that draws more people here illegally." Romney strategists believe the immigration issue will be devastating for Perry with Tea Party Republicans across the country — and especially in important primary states like Arizona.
Will Perry run away from his record on immigration? He might, or he could point to Romney's own inconsistencies on immigration. But Romney isn't the only person who sees Perry's tolerance of undocumented workers as a liability. Last week Public Intellectual Anne Coulter compared Perry's immigration policies to those of another prominent Texas Republican during an appearance on Sean Hannity's variety hour. Hannity asked if there was support for a Gov. Chris Christie run. "Yeah, as soon as people hear more about Perry's views on amnesty," Coulter said. "He's just a little bit too much like George Bush." Seeing as Romney supported Bush's proposed immigration reforms, he and Perry will have to share that albatross.
Meanwhile, the anti-immigration group NumbersUSA gave Perry a D minus for his record as governor, which puts him only slightly above President Barack Obama (who earned an impossible F minus), light years behind a B-earning Bachmann, but neck-and-neck with Romney, who also pulled a D minus.
Groups like NumbersUSA won't have much sway over the nomination process. But their indices are still useful for a couple of reasons. The first is for rebutting anti-human capital talking points, some of which Shikha Dalmia handily eviscerated earlier today. The other thing they're good for is reminding folks who think peaceable people should be able to work where the market will have them that Obama is just as bad on immigration as his GOP opponents.
A recent Gallup poll shows Obama's approval ratings falling a full 12 points among Hispanics, which suggests Hispanics don't need reminding that Obama sucks on immigration. But they may need convincing that there are alternative options. That former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman–neither of whom sits all that well with Tea Partiers or the GOP's kingmakers–both received F grades from NumbersUSA would actually serve them quite well with Hispanic voters. For while Hispanics may feel disillusioned with Obama, a Latino Decisions poll conducted in February found that 36 percent of resondents think the GOP doesn't care about Latino outreach, while 30 percent feel the GOP is outright hostile to Hispanics. That's a big problem for the larger GOP, but an opportunity for pro-immigration candidates like Johnson and Huntsman.