This week the Texas political world is buzzing over where Attorney General Greg Abbott -- the perceived GOP front-runner for governor -- stands regarding the issue of providing in-state tuition for students without immigration documentation.
The inquiry into Abbott followed the fallout in the lieutenant governor’s race, where Republican candidates picked each other apart over the issue. At a recent Austin event, Abbott ducked reporters’ questions, saying he was running late and had no time to talk.
James Henson, a professor at the University of Texas at Austin and head of the Texas Politics Project, said immigration is going to be the most difficult areas for Abbott, especially as he attempts to appeal to the Latino vote while still maintaining the rhetoric of the Republican base.
"For Abbott to jump ahead and talk about education and talk about areas where he’s in broad agreement with the base, the strategy more or less works," Henson said. "But when he tries to do that with immigration, the base does not want to see him moving towards the middle on immigration and it activates a very volatile fault in the Republican Party right now."
Henson predicts Abbott will find a way to reshape the conversation about in-state tuition for undocumented students, similar to how Gov. Rick Perry handled the sanctuary cities issue during the 2010 election.
"Immigration is going to be the most difficult area for Abbott to jump ahead to the general election because all of our polling has shown -- for tea party-identifiers, and to a lesser degree mainline Republicans -- immigration and border security are very important problems," Henson said.
Henson said where that becomes a problem is his stance on the issue of in-state tuition while his campaign has launched a major effort to court the Latino-vote.
"The objective for the Abbott campaign is to resolve this issues now while very few people are paying attention so that they don't last into the active primary season," Henson said.
Late Thursday, the Abbott campaign did release this statement:
"Greg Abbott believes the program to bring in-state tuition rates for undocumented students is a noble cause, but the law as it stands is flawed and needs to be fixed."