Rick Perry Pivots on Immigration to Fit GOP Field for 2012

The Texas Governor is fast becoming the GOP's most viable hope for next year's presidential election.

By Shani O. Hilton Jul 21, 2011

Texas Governor Rick Perry isn’t in the GOP presidential candidate race — yet. Observers expect him to join the field soon, though, especially after a national security briefing he attended last week, featuring top conservative policy advisors.

And Perry’s apprently positioning himself to be a social conservative darling.

On immigration, he recently revived a bill that would crackdown on so-called "sanctuary" cities — localities where the government prohibits police officers from asking about the immigration status of legally detained residents.

Perry, it seems, knows which way the wind is blowing: His immigration stance is a 180-degree turn from his criticisms of Arizona’s draconian immigration law SB-1070 last year. At the time, he questioned the law, saying, "Some aspects of the law turn law enforcement officers into immigration officials by requiring them to determine immigration status during any lawful contact with a suspected alien, taking them away from their existing law enforcement duties, which are critical to keeping citizens safe."

Considering that Perry also signed the Texas DREAM Act into law in 2001 — a precursor to the national bill that’s been struggling for congressional support — his movement to the right is quite the contrast. In a statement to the conservative Washington Times, Perry now says, "We need to, as a country, address border security before we tackle any immigration issues."

It’s likely that Perry will make a decision about running after an August 6 prayer rally in Houston, Texas. The Hill calls it a "dry run" for how he’ll be received on the national stage. Right Wing Watch points to a change on the website for the day of prayer, noting that the link to the "Endorsers" page was removed recently. While the page itself remains, RWW speculates the link was taken down because of the associations of some of the folks backing Perry.

Researching the names is "how we found out about people like Mike Bickle who believes that Oprah Winfrey is a forerunner to the Antichrist and John Benefiel who believes that the Statue of Liberty is a ‘demonic idol,’ " writes Kyle Mantyla.

It seems Perry hasn’t quite figured out how to walk the line of appealing to conservatives and appearing to support right-wing nuts. (Perhaps the hot water GOP candidate Michele Bachmann found herself in last week has led to him being more cautious.)

But signs point to an increasingly conservative stance that will likely play off of the same "maverick" script John McCain attempted in the 2008 election.