Rick Perry's Border Battle Makes Him the Political Comeback Kid

Image: Rick Perry's Border Battle Makes Him the Political Comeback Kid

Wednesday, 09 Jul 2014 08:43 AM

By Drew MacKenzie

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Texas Gov. Rick Perry has forced his way back into the Republican spotlight two years after an embarrassing run for the White House cast a shadow over his political future, Politico reported.

The irony is that in 2012 his controversial comments on immigration turned off the conservative base while now his battle to prevent a surge of undocumented children crossing the border is being heralded by GOP leaders, according to the political news website.

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As thousands of unaccompanied children from Central American countries cross into south Texas every month, Perry jumped to the forefront of the debate by refusing to meet with President Barack Obama for a "quick handshake on the tarmac" at the Austin airport when he visits the Lone Star State on Wednesday.

The brash, bespectacled governor, who’s eying another White House run in 2016, instead insisted on a face-to-face meeting with Obama to confront him on the immigration influx and the resulting humanitarian crisis costing the country millions of dollars every day, Politico reported.

Under pressure from leaders within his own party, Obama has since caved in to Perry’s demands, with White House senior adviser Valeria Jarrett inviting the GOP governor to immigration talks with local officials and religious leaders in Dallas.

Although Perry’s requested "substantive" one-on-one meeting with Obama has not yet been arranged, the governor's team "expects that it will happen" while "White House aides...agreed that it was a strong possibility," according to Politico. The victory has pushed the governor back into the major leagues.

"The No. 1 thing Republicans want, especially in Texas, is someone fighting Obama," a leading GOP operative in the state told Politico. "They’re obsessed with it."

And another Texas Republican strategist said, "A lot of the Republican base sees Perry as a hero in this situation. Obviously, Perry is a politician, too, but it’s not just that he’s calling out Obama, but he’s saying, 'No, let’s sit down and talk about this, do fact-finding, go to the border.' He’s not just taking swipes from afar."

Perry’s immigration showdown with Obama has received praise from a slew of conservatives, and even Herman Cain, his 2012 GOP presidential primary rival, applauded him via Twitter, saying, "Nice to see a gov display a little chutzpah," according to Politico.

Jeff Miller, a senior Perry political adviser, told CNN, "Right now, because of the huge influx of these children crossing the border from Mexico, the media's paying more attention and more of the public is seeing the crisis the governor has been dealing with for years.

"He’s not saying anything different than what he's being advocating since 2010 — that 'we've got to secure this border. There's a crisis going on. Not a lot has changed, but now more people are listening to what the governor's saying."

Dave Carney, a longtime former Perry adviser, told Politico that the immigration scandal has given the governor "a voice nationally and a platform to talk about this issue."

The potential sit-down with the president comes just days after Perry blamed Obama for the immigration crisis, which has led to thousands of migrants being housed at military bases and other retention centers while being processed by immigration authorities before their temporary release into the United States.

"My message to President Obama is to secure this border, Mr. President," Perry said. "Finally address this issue and secure this border."

His tough immigration stance contrasts with his moderate position two years ago, when he ran for the GOP presidential nomination, Politico reported.

He angered the conservative base by defending Texas’ DREAM act, which allows in-state tuition for undocumented immigrant children brought here illegally by their parents.

"If you say that we should not educate children who have come into our state for no other reason than they’ve been brought there by no fault of their own, I don’t think you have a heart," he said at the time.

"That one comment hurt his campaign more than anything else did," a senior Texas GOP operative who was there at the time told Politico. "He understands he needs to rehabilitate himself a little bit. I don’t think he’s going to change his position on the DREAM Act, but he does need to talk about border security more, talk about border security first."

The most memorable blunder, however, during his 2012 campaign was forgetting the third of three federal agencies he would eliminate as president, instead giving the now infamous remark, "Oops."

But these days Politico says Perry has regular policy meetings and briefings so that his memory does not fail him again in 2016.

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