Two issues at forefront for Perry after debate

September 23, 2011 4:37:55 PM PDT
For the first time since Rick Perry entered the race for the White House, it seems the Texas governor has a chink in his armor. He is still the frontrunner for the GOP nomination in 2012, but in a debate in Florida on Thursday night, most pundits suggest that Texas' longest-serving governor didn't do anything to help his chances.

It wasn't all stumbles for Perry at the debate. There were some moments where Perry and his opponents talked policy. The criticisms on Perry's immigration stance continued into Friday.

On Thursday night, Perry defended Texas' in-state tuition for undocumented students, a 10-year long program, saying if you don't support that, you don't have a heart. On Friday, Mitt Romney fired back, saying his opposition to the program proves he has a heart and a brain.

"We have to turn off the magnet of extraordinary government benefits like a $100,000 tax credit, or discount, for going to the University of Texas. That shouldn't be allowed; it makes no sense at all," said Romney.

The audience in the Florida debate hall loved the anti-illegal immigration sentiment, but Perry stood by the program that helps people like Naz Hernandez, whom we profiled on Eyewitness News. He's a UT senior from Houston brought across the Rio Grande when he was seven years old.

We went looking for some more details about the tuition program. It turns out in the last 12 months, 16,476 undocumented students attended Texas public colleges -- that's 1.3 percent of the entire student population. They paid nearly $33 million in tuition to the state of Texas.

The other piece from the debate making some waves on Friday is Heather Burcham. She's the young Houston woman who died from cervical cancer that could've been prevented by the HPV vaccine. Last week, we first told you about the relationship she and Perry had before she died.

On Thursday night, Perry spoke about it, trying to deflect criticism that his HPV executive order was somehow a giveaway for drug companies.

"I got lobbied by a 31-year-old young lady who had Stage 4 cervical cancer. I spent a lot of time with her. She came by my office, she talked to me a lot about this program," Perry said.

To be clear, Perry didn't meet Burcham until after he signed his executive order and was fighting with legislators to keep it alive. His campaign doesn't deny that.

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