Rick Perry and the Limits of Ideology: The Ticker

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By Francis Wilkinson

At the CNN/Tea Party debate last night in Tampa, Texas Governor Rick Perry stood out from the crowd on Social Security. But it was his lonely stand on immigration that prompted boos from the Tea Party crowd and a giddy reaction on stage as Perry's rivals piled on. (The fun isn't over. A Super PAC supporting Minnesota Representative Michele Bachmann begins airing radio ads today in South Carolina attacking Perry on immigration.)

"If you've been in the state of Texas for three years, and working toward citizenship, you pay in-state tuition," Perry explained last night. "It doesn't matter what the sound of your last name is. That's the American way."

That's not the Republican way in 2011. Perry's immigration stance is shared by many liberal Democrats and few conservative Republicans. It shows the limits of ideology even in a politician like Perry with a hard ideological edge. To succeed in Texas, Perry has had to accommodate his views to the political power wielded by Hispanics, who comprise 37.6 percent of the state's population (whites are 45.3 percent). If he were governor of Bachmann's Minnesota (2.4 percent Hispanic) or Mitt Romney's Massachusetts (9.6 percent Hispanic), his immigration record would almost certainly better reflect the Republican mood.

While getting clobbered on immigration last night, Perry also began walking back his fierce condemnation of Social Security. If the issue continues to damage his political prospects -- and it's hard to believe it won't --  is there any doubt that Governor Perry's deeply-felt ideological aversion to Social Security will . . . evolve?

(Francis Wilkinson is a member of the Bloomberg View editorial board.)


-0- Sep/13/2011 14:56 GMT