In the lead-up to the 2012 election, Republican candidates piled on Texas Governor Rick Perry during a primary debate when he stood by his support for a bill that would offer children of undocumented immigrants in-state tuition at Texas state colleges.
“If you say that we should not educate children who have come into our state for no reason than they’ve been brought there, by no fault of their own, I don’t think you have a heart,” Perry said in a September 2011 debate. “I still support it greatly.”
Kevin Madden, a senior adviser to Mitt Romney’s 2012 campaign, acknowledged in an interview on Andrea Mitchell Reports Tuesday that the short-term gain of criticizing Perry in that debate, as Romney and the other Republican candidates did, was a missed opportunity for Romney to distinguish himself and potentially gain points in the general election.
“When you have a campaign that’s driven by tactics–and I think that was a move that was a positioning that was driven by a tactical move to the right of somebody who had established a lead inside the primary. When you’re driven by tactics, what happens is that you end up losing a lot of your thinking–you’re only thinking with your head.
And this is an issue that many people look at with their heart. And it doesn’t speak to the larger values that we have as a party and how we are a welcoming party and we’re a party that understands the value of immigration to the larger economy. So the allure was very–and the short-term gain, was–was too great, I think, during those–during that campaign and those debates.”