Haunted By A Past Of Common Decency

Benjy Sarlin reports on Texas Governor Rick Perry's evolution from an immigration moderate (liberal by today's standards) who signed a state DREAM Act and opposed the E-Verify employment verification system to a border hawk who supported Arizona-style restrictionist legislation in his own state.

As Texas' longest serving governor, Perry has had the unenviable job of balancing his states' Latino population, business community, and border hawks over one of the most tumultuous decades for immigration policy in recent memory. But while his careful triangulation has kept him in office through three elections and a bruising primary in 2010, it's also left a trail of resentment on all sides that could threaten his quest for the presidential nomination.

On the right, anti-immigration conservatives have swung the GOP towards a hardline position, undoing a years-long effort by Perry's predecessor, George Bush, to bring Latino voters into the Republican fold. Once relatively uncontroversial positions by Perry have since become anathema: a bill offering in-state tuition to undocumented immigrants, which passed with near-unanimous margins in Texas, now faces major protests in Maryland.

In April, the Onion published a satirical article titled "Mitt Romney Haunted By Past Of Trying To Help Uninsured Sick People." It's becoming something of a theme in the Republican presidential race, particularly for governors saddled with the responsibilities of running a state who can't afford the ideological purity of legislators with relatively short histories like Michele Bachmann or candidates like Herman Cain who haven't actually held elective office. Just as Romney with health care and Tim Pawlenty with his Muslim-friendly mortgage assistance program, Perry will probably end up having to apologize for past moments of common decency in his record.

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