If Rick Perry Wants To Be The GOP Nominee, He’s Going To Have To….

If Rick Perry Wants To Be The GOP Nominee, He’s Going To Have To….

Rick Perry’s numbers skyrocketed when he entered the race, but predictably, after the media and the other candidates hammered him relentlessly, his numbers started to drop. The good news for Perry is that he’s still in first place. If the election were today, he’d win Iowa, he’d win South Carolina, and he’d go on to be the nominee.

That being said, he still has a major weakness that hasn’t been fully explored. Perry is terrible on illegal immigration. He’s talked down the fence on the border, he’s opposed E-Verify, and his position on amnesty is very iffy.

Of course, Mitt Romney’s record on immigration isn’t any better than Perry’s. There is a difference, however: Mitt has flipped on the issue and is now saying all the right things. Perry could still easily do the same thing by using the “What’s good for a state isn’t good on the federal level” argument. He’s already done that, for example, on the Dream Act. It wouldn’t be a perfect fit, but if Perry played it smart and made the right promises, he could convince conservatives that he can be trusted on the issue — well, at least as much as they trust Romney.

Let me add that if Rick Perry wants to be the nominee, he’s going to HAVE TO DO THAT. He has a small lead over Romney in Iowa and South Carolina and most primary voters are unaware of how bad his record is on illegal immigration. If they come to the conclusion that Perry isn’t going to build the fence, that he’s not going to stop businesses from hiring illegals, and that he may implement an amnesty, it’s hard to see how he’s going to beat Mitt Romney.

That’s just how it is and quite frankly, Perry’s people should have been aware of that going into the race. The base conservatives have been lied to so often on illegal immigration that they’ve become very sophisticated about the issue. They’re not going to take anyone’s word for it when he says, “I oppose amnesty and want to secure the border.” They’re going to look at your record, they’re going to pay close attention to your stands on the issue, and they’re going to watch where you stand on the “micro-issues”. Do you support E-Verify? Do you want to build the fence? Do you support sanctuary cities? How about the DREAM ACT? The Arizona immigration law? Driver’s licenses for illegals? Should the children of two illegal aliens be allowed to have American citizenship? Under what circumstances would you allow illegals to become citizens? These are questions that the base conservatives pay attention to when they’re trying to decide if a candidate is serious about fighting illegal immigration or whether he’s “pro-amnesty and open borders.”

In Perry’s case, the window of opportunity has not closed for him on illegal immigration, but this single issue can and quite possibly will cost him the nomination if he doesn’t reassure the base that he can be trusted on the issue. That would be a shame because there’s a lot to like about Rick Perry, but at the end of the day, conservatives want candidates who agree with them on important issues. Illegal immigration is one of those issues and Rick Perry’s campaign better figure that out in a hurry.

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