by Dave Leach
You wouldn’t think so from the news. Reporters across America have been declaring Rick Perry’s campaign all but over because of his dogged support of Texas’ in-state tuition for undocumented college students. But if immigration reform doesn’t have majority Republican support, what else explains how Rick Perry is still the front runner?
A Zogby poll taken right after the Thursday, September 23 debate had his support among Republicans down from 38 percent to 18 percent, still in second place after Cain, while Michelle Bachman, by far the most anti-immigrant candidate, dropped from 34 percent a month ago to 4 percent. Meanwhile a CNN poll showed Perry still in the lead with 28%, with Cain way down again to 7%.
News stories don’t explain this.
Jennifer Jacobs, in the Des Moines Register Sept 27, only quoted Perry’s critics on immigration. The only quote from Perry was about his identification with middle class Americans.
Michael Finnegan, writing for the Los Angeles Times, whom Jacobs quoted, headlined his story “Perry faces immigration hurdles in Iowa – His stances on a U.S.-Mexico border fence and college tuition don’t sit well with conservatives who’ll vote in the state’s Republican caucuses.”
The Miami Herald reported, “Perry’s low moment came when the debate turned to illegal immigration. He stood up for a program in Texas giving subsidized higher education tuition for some illegal immigrants, drawing boos from the crowd. Perry avoided the topic Friday, but the damage was evident in the boos that filled the room a couple hours later when conservative author Ann Coulter brought it up.” Ann Coulter wrote Sept 28, “No fancy wordsmithery is going to get Perry out of supporting in-state tuition for illegal aliens…. We are not Democrats. We already had a Republican president and both political parties try to foist amnesty on us. The country erupted in rage.”
So how has Perry come through this storm still possibly on top?
Perhaps the explanation is found in a Pew Research Center report, May 4, 2011, page 49, where we learn that a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants is supported by majorities of every voting demographic except one: “staunch conservatives”, and even in that group, 49% support it, to the 49% who are against it. Meanwhile “Main Street Republicans” support it by 58-39%.
This is profound, since a path to citizenship for “illegals” is how Bachman, Conway, King, Tancredo, Michelson etc. define “amnesty”, which is as close as they come to cursing in public. And yet we learn that even this flagship issue upon which, we are told, all Republicans that matter agree, cannot dock in half the ports of the most anti-immigrant group of voters.
Perry’s numbers indicate news reporters are not giving us a clear picture of American support for immigrants. They indicate American support hasn’t changed much since May 4 when the Pew report was published, or since 2008 when Republicans chose for their front runner Senator McCain despite being known as a co-architect of the 2007 Immigration Compromise bill, and since Republicans elected George Bush president in 2000 and 2004.
So then why does anti-immigration make so much more media noise? The numbers point to a silent majority too intimidated to speak up – to call news reporters and offer the facts as they experience them. But the numbers promise that those who will speak up for immigrants will speak for a majority of Republicans as well as Democrats.
Dave Leach owns the Family Music Center in Des Moines, Iowa. He has served as a conservative Republican candidate. He writes for Iowa Latino newspapers. Website Email: mailto: HispanicHope@Saltshaker.US.