Mitt Romney is keeping up the heat on Rick Perry after his lackluster debate performance, slamming the Texas governor for saying anti-immigration Republicans don’t “have a heart.”
Perry uttered the line on Thursday while defending legislation he signed in Texas granting in-state tuition at Texas universities to illegal immigrants who arrived in the country as children.
“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 told the debate audience.
Perry’s relatively moderate immigration record has always been a glaring vulnerability, but his open hostility towards hardliners in the debate really rubbed some conservative pundits the wrong way. Sensing vulnerability, Romney lit into him over the answer on Friday at CPAC.
“My friend Governor Perry said that if you don’t agree with his position on giving that in-state tuition to illegals that you don’t have a heart,” he said. “I think if you’re opposed to illegal immigration it doesn’t mean that you don’t have a heart. It means you have a heart and a brain.”
Romney also dinged Perry over his opposition to measures like building a border fence and requiring employers to use the E-Verify system to check for undocumented workers. Anti-immigration groups are highly supportive of both policies.
Benjy Sarlin is a reporter for Talking Points Memo and co-writes the campaign blog, TPM2012. He previously reported for The Daily Beast/Newsweek as their Washington Correspondent and covered local politics for the New York Sun.