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Immigration Could Be Perry’s Undoing in Texas

Public Policy Polling (PPP) posted an interesting follow-up to its poll showing Texas Gov. Rick Perry running tied with his Democratic opponent Bill White. PPP notes that White’s recent rise in the numbers against Perry has come largely from increasing Hispanic support:

When we polled the race in February Rick Perry led Bill White by 6 points. The race is tied now, and the movement since the previous poll has come completely with Hispanic voters. With white voters Perry led 54-35 then and leads 55-35 now. With black voters White led 81-12 then and leads 70-7 now. But with Hispanics Perry has gone from leading 53-41 in February to now trailing 55-21. And it’s not that the sample of Hispanic voters we interviewed for this poll was somehow fundamentally different from the previous one- Barack Obama’s approval with them on this poll was 49% compared to 47% on the previous Texas poll.

PPP’s poll was conducted between June 19th and 20th. A week prior, the state GOP held its convention, where it passed a party platform that included strongly anti-immigrant language, with no pathway to citizenship (not even through military service) and “a plank advocating for a state law that would bar illegal immigrants from ‘intentionally or knowingly’ living in Texas.”

Though Perry opposed the inclusion of the strict language, he appears to be paying the price of his party association — the consequence of a growing divide between elected Republican officials and their grassroots base. The Hill reported today on the pressure Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, faces to turn Arizona’s stringent immigration policies into a major campaign issue.

GOP and conservative activists see the lawsuit the administration is considering against Arizona’s tough new law as a tool to spike turnout by Republicans and independents at the polls. [...]

“If we’re talking about gaining the Senate or the House, I think the Obama administration lawsuit will pour lighter fluid on the issue and it will burn Democratic candidates,” said Jason Rose, a Republican political consultant based in Arizona.

This disconnect in the party arises in part due to ideological rigidness of the base and the realities of the electoral landscape facing politicians. As of 2008, Hispanics accounted for 36.5 percent of Texas’ population — a number quickly rising and a demographic trend that spreads throughout the Southwest. While such policies might help Republicans turn out their grassroots base for the midterms, old pols like Perry and Cornyn seem to recognize that alienating the Hispanic vote will set the party up for future failure.

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