Perry Walks Back His Words On Immigration Defense

BY David Chalian  September 29, 2011 at 8:37 AM EDT


Texas Governor and Republican presidential contender Rick Perry speaks with the media after attending a private campaign event at the Riverside Hotel on September 21, 2011 in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images.

The Morning Line

Gov. Rick Perry, R-Texas, has been spending the better part of the last week cleaning up his Orlando debate performance.

Wednesday, he said it was “inappropriate” to refer to opponents of his Texas policy to allow illegal immigrant students in-state tuition as heartless.

Perry made the retreat with conservative news outlet Newsmax:

“‘I was probably a bit over-passionate by using that word and it was inappropriate,’ Perry admitted. ‘In Texas in 2001 we had 181 members of the legislature – only four voted against this piece of legislation – because it wasn’t about immigration it was about education.’”

It’s not difficult to see why Perry is still working to clean up the perception that his once skyrocketing campaign got knocked off course over the last week.

A new Fox news poll shows Perry has slipped 10 percentage points in the last month and now trails Mitt Romney 23 percent to 19 percent.

(And be sure to note Herman Cain tripling his support over the last month, seizing on some of the free media exposure he has received since his Florida straw poll victory.)

It’s one poll, and even if others follow with a similar finding, it is unlikely to cause the Perry campaign to quake in its boots.

However, now that Perry has plummeted back to Earth, Mitt Romney finds himself once again the consistent and solid candidate who has yet to ignite passion among the party faithful.

There is little doubt that Romney’s endurance is not done being tested. Few candidates in the modern era simply win the nomination without going through a significant setback and proving himself capable of getting up off the mat. (See McCain, John, Kerry, John, Obama, Barack).

As both the New York Times and the Washington Post turn their attention back to Romney’s leading position in the race Thursday, you can be certain that he will once again be wearing a target on his back.

The New York Times’ Jeff Zeleny sums it up best:

“The time has long passed for Mr. Romney to be the first choice in the hearts of many Republicans. So his strategy, by necessity, has evolved into being the last choice, an eat-your-vegetables candidate who may only be seen as more appealing when he is matched up alongside his rivals.”

The Washington Post’s headline gets at a similar sentiment: ‘Mitt Romney, never Republicans’ dream date, hopes to be the one they marry.’

NEWT’S NEW ‘CONTRACT’

Newt Gingrich is hoping his “21st Century Contract with America,” set to be released Thursday, will do for his presidential campaign what the original “Contract,” unveiled in 1994, did for congressional Republicans.

That landmark political document led to a GOP takeover of Congress that year, propelled Gingrich to Speaker of the House, and cemented his reputation as one of the Party’s leading thinkers.

With his new “Contract,” Gingrich is seeking to reaffirm his role as the “ideas guy” in the race, outline his plans for the direction of the country over the next decade, and redirect some of the attention in the campaign to his candidacy, which has largely been an afterthought since nearly imploding five months ago.

The Des Moines Register’s Jennifer Jacobs got an early look at the document, and notes that while the provisions are different from those in the 1994 version, the themes of “smaller government, lower taxes and greater citizen control” remain.

Gingrich proposes to repeal the president’s health care reform law and replace it. He would instead give Americans the choice of a tax credit or the ability to deduct the value of their health insurance up to a certain amount.

With Medicare and Social Security, Gingrich also aims to make more choices available to people. Seniors can opt to stay in the current Medicare program or select a provider and have the government help cover premiums. For younger Americans, Gingrich wants to give them the option of investing in personal savings accounts.

On the issue of income taxes, Gingrich again wants to give people options. He says taxpayers can remain in the current system or select an optional flat tax rate.

Gingrich told the Register last week his proposal would “fundamentally change the trajectory of America,” but also conceded the goals outlined in the document would require two terms to be accomplished.

The prospects for Gingrich getting a crack at those two terms are dim at the moment, with most polls showing the former speaker trailing front-runners Romney and Perry by wide margins. Reports also indicate the candidate continues to struggle when it comes to fundraising — a key ingredient to any successful campaign operation, no matter how hefty the ideas may be.

Be sure to check out Thursday’s NewsHour for Judy Woodruff’s interview with Newt Gingrich about his “21st Century Contract with America” and assortment of 2012 campaign topics.

ENTHUSIASM GAP

It’s numbers like these that show David Axelrod isn’t joking around when he uses words like “titanic struggle” to describe the president’s re-election bid.

A new Gallup survey released Thursday reveals that Democratic voters are far less enthusiastic about voting in the 2012 presidential election than they were in 2008.

Among Democrats and independents who lean Democratic, 45 percent said they were more enthusiastic about voting in 2012, while 44 percent responded they were less enthusiastic. In the 2008 campaign, the “more enthusiastic” number topped out at 79 percent.

For their part, Republican voters appear to have carried over their energy from the 2010 midterms, which helped spur the GOP to a majority in the House and narrow the gap in the Senate.

Among Republicans and independents who lean Republican, 58 percent said they were more enthusiastic about voting in 2012, compared to 30 percent who responded they were less enthusiastic.

That comes even as some polls show still show Republican voters thirsting for more options when it comes to the GOP presidential field — although that number has decreased in recent months.

ON THE TRAIL

All events listed in Eastern Time.

  • President Obama is in Washington, where he holds closed press meetings and participates in a series of regional interviews on the American Jobs Act at 11:20 a.m., from the Diplomatic Room. The interviews will begin airing at 5 p.m.

  • Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann attends a North Carolina GOP BBQ fundraiser in Concord, N.C., at 12:30 p.m., participates in a business roundtable in Charlotte, N.C., at 2 p.m., and finishes up with a Moore County GOP fundraiser in Pinehurst, N.C., at 7 p.m.

  • Newt Gingrich outlines his new “Contract” in Des Moines, Iowa, at 1 p.m., and meets with grassroots activists at the Republican Party of Iowa headquarters at 7 p.m.

  • Texas Rep. Ron Paul holds a question-and-answer session in Derry, N.H., at 6 p.m.

For all future campaign events, be sure to check out our Political Calendar.

For more political coverage, visit our politics page. Sign up here to receive the Morning Line in your inbox every morning.