Under a barrage of attacks for his record on immigration, a challenge that must be faced by any front-runner, the tough-talking Texan deemed “heartless” those who didn’t agree with his state’s decision to give in-state tuition for illegal immigrants.
A state decision for a state whose leaders confront the problem in a far more real fashion than most ever will.
Of course, that fact, along with the overwhelming bi-partisan majority with which the bill cleared the Texas legislature, were lost in the fray, replaced by mounting concerns about Perry’s “conservative credentials.”
It’s no fault of his competitors; they were doing what has become necessary to win in Republican primaries across the nation. The hardline stance on immigration, no matter how unrealistic it may be in reality, always sounds better on paper. Perry supporters, myself included, were left reminding the base that here was a man who had probably forgotten more about the border, and illegal immigration, than his competitors would ever know, but it was already too late.
While that was just one of many woes that befell Perry’s campaign, the larger issue here is that the final outcome of the 2012 election serves as more proof that it’s time to leave immigration absolutism on the right behind.
Ten percent of the votes cast Tuesday came from Hispanics, and 71 percent of them went to President Obama. Across the board demographic trends show that the Hispanic population is the fastest growing in the nation.
And Republicans have found themselves puzzled by how to appeal to this growing, and increasingly involved, voter demographic. The answer’s simple: drop the red meat and think rationally. The electoral shellacking is only going to get worse as the trends continue.
Of course, no talk of reforming the GOP’s stance on immigration can come without mention of Jeb Bush. The former Florida governor has been rebuked by elements of his own party for pointing out the obvious: evolving demographics require a new tone when it comes to immigration.

Politically speaking, Bush perhaps serves as a better sign than Perry that it’s time to heed the call. He won 80 percent of the Cuban vote the last time he was elected in Florida and Perry has been elected three times in a state that simultaneously espouses some 60 percent of our Mexican border while being one of the most conservative in the nation.

Some will likely argue that Democrats are already ahead of the curve on this, and that the 71-27 percent margin for Obama is insurmountable. It’s an understandable posture to take, but fortunately, Democrats are nowhere near ahead of the curve policy-wise. The president’s Univision interview, far under-reported by the mainstream, highlighted his first-term failure, another broken promise, to even propose meaningful immigration reform.

So, Republicans have an opportunity. Not necessarily to win the Hispanic vote in 2016 outright, but to make the inroads critical to avoid being marginalized among an increasingly crucial demographic. It also might lead to practical, common-sense policies on immigration reform and border security, rather than the all too typical dogma that wins primaries, loses in November and would never to come to fruition in the first place.
Failure to end that stance which has become part of the party litmus test will likely not bode well for the future of the Republican Party at a national level.
Indeed, it may be time to give the Rick Perrys and Jeb Bushes of the Grand Ole’ Party their due.
Howell is an account services director at Hynes Communications and a contributor to the Peach State political blog Georgia Tipsheet