Poll: Perry dives, opponents hammer tuition issue



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Posted on September 29, 2011 at 6:28 PM

Updated Thursday, Sep 29 at 6:42 PM

AUSTIN -- Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry has gone from rockstar favorite to a distant second in just a week. Opponents have relentlessly attacked the Texas Governor's support of a 2001 Texas law allowing some foreign-born children of undocumented immigrants to qualify for in-state tuition at Texas colleges and universities.

The latest poll by FOX News shows Perry now four points behind opponent Mitt Romney and just two ahead of surging contender Herman Cain. The numbers represent a nearly 10 point drop from last week's CNN poll which showed Perry leading the pack at 28 percent support among Republican Primary voters.

So why all this sudden focus on a 10-year-old law that passed nearly unopposed and hasn't been brought up in nearly a decade? At the University of Texas' LBJ School of Public Affairs, former state representative and lecturer Sherri R. Greenberg explained.

"Over the years there has tended to be a somewhat different view of immigrant issues as they pertain to children here in Texas and other border states," said Greenberg. "He is now on the national stage as opposed to just the Texas stage, and I think that he is seeing that some of these things resonate differently."

Karla Resendiz, 25, knows the effects of HB 1403 first-hand. Her family moved to Texas on a temporary visa when she was 12. They applied for permanent residency, but when the visa expired, the family was left in limbo.

Graduating among the top of her class from her North Texas high school, Resendiz met the three-year residency requirement and signed an affidavit pledging to become a citizen or permanent resident as soon as she could. As a result, she was able to attend the University of Texas, where she graduated in 2010 with a doctor of pharmacy.

Resendiz is thankful, and although she understands Perry's support of the law has made him unpopular with his base, she cautions that it won't necessarily translate to Hispanic votes instead.

"I think Perry's kind of stuck between a rock and a hard place because yes, Tea Partiers see this as a bad thing on Rick Perry's track record, but Hispanics also know his track record on immigration," said Resendiz.

While the in-state tuition debate is clearly eroding support among the Republican right, it's still unclear how the issue would be perceived if Perry makes it past the primaries.

"I think the question will be, 'How does this play with independents?" said Greenberg.

Resendiz hopes that the recent focus won't tempt Perry or Texas lawmakers to re-think the legislation.

"We're hoping that he won't back out on this because it's good policy," said Resendiz. "It makes sense and It's good for Texas."

But will it be the issue that ends Perry's campaign, or is it just the topic of the week? With 10 more debates to come, there's plenty of time to find out. The next debate is set for Oct. 11 at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire.  It will air on Bloomberg Television.