Rick Perry’s tuition troubles have a lot to do with the difference between politics in Texas and politics everywhere else.

His support for in-state tuition for the children of illegal immigrants — and the fact that he’s sticking with it — started a political tornado. It was enough to make Herman Cain say he would vote for Mitt Romney for president but not for Mr. Perry.

In Texas, there was almost no controversy when the law passed in 2001 with nearly unanimous support from lawmakers of both parties, and it hasn’t been much of an issue since — or wasn’t, until that twister touched ground. Earlier this year, an effort to undo it died in the halls of the Capitol.

And there’s a way to sell it. John Sharp, the new chancellor of the Texas A&M University System and an on-again, off-again buddy of the governor’s, fielded a question about it at a Texas Tribune event last week. He made it sound easy, blaming the federal government for leaving the gate open and then turning the result into an issue of education and economic development that the state was forced to address. It looked, in that version, as if the governor had no choice. The audience — a Texas audience — appeared to swallow it whole. Maybe Mr. Sharp should join Mr. Perry’s debate prep team.

“The governor, the Legislature, the 174 members who voted for that piece of legislation did not get the choice of whether or not those kids were there,” Mr. Sharp said. “Their choice is whether or not those kids are going to become productive citizens or become one hell of a drag on the Texas economy, and that’s it. It seems that common sense dictates that maybe, from a Texas point of view, we need to make sure they’re not that kind of a drag on the Texas economy.”

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