Rick Perry Sticks To His Guns On Immigration

Originally published on October 4, 2011 3:36 pm
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AUDIE CORNISH, Host:

As Jon Greenberg reports, Perry faced headwinds among Republican primary voters in the Granite State.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: We're waiting for you to get over here.

JON GREENBERG: The night before, at Perry's very first town hall meeting in New Hampshire, Derry resident Jane Manning described her disappointment.

JANE MANNING: They said he was a true conservative. Now what I've heard all, you know, the immigration and all that, it's turning me off because that's important to me.

GREENBERG: The next morning, at the Atkinson Country Club, 66-year-old Tom Eichler said Perry must surely regret his words.

TOM EICHLER: He came across as supporting taking my money and your money to pay for the children of illegal aliens in Texas. I don't want to do that.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

GREENBERG: But there's a curious quality about campaigning in New Hampshire. Sitting 20 feet from a candidate and seeing every expression and gesture invites voters to relate to politicians as people. Here's how Perry explained the tuition law in Texas. He said decades of failure by the federal government to secure the border with Mexico forced his state to deal with illegal immigrants; if their children proved themselves worthy of college Texas faced this choice.

RICK PERRY: We either kick them to the curb and pick up the cost of whatever that's going to be later down the road - and we analyze it as they were going to cost us more money if we did not allow them to be educated and become part of the workforce in the State of Texas.

GREENBERG: That explanation didn't work for everybody, but it worked for Eichler.

EICHLER: I was very, very impressed. I thought he did a terrific job. And I was very happy with all of his answers. And I think he showed himself to have a great deal of integrity. And he didn't back off of anything.

GREENBERG: Net result, when Eichler had arrived that morning he was pretty much a Romney man.

EICHLER: I'm not positive I walk the Romney bandwagon yet, but now I'm not so sure.

GREENBERG: Very good. So these face-to-face meetings do matter.

EICHLER: Oh, absolutely.

GREENBERG: Salem resident Ed Brazier heard the governor in Derry.

ED BRAZIER: One-on-one, he's a good speaker. But in a debate, he can't. And I'm afraid, as a Republican, that if he's the nominee Obama will wipe him out.

GREENBERG: For NPR News, I'm Jon Greenberg in Concord, New Hampshire. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.