Take immigration reform. Eventual GOP nominee Mitt Romney hammered Perry for his support of in-state tuition for undocumented workers in Texas. That was in 2012. Now Republican standard-bearers Marco Rubio and Rand Paul have changed the GOP’s tune on immigration. Rubio teamed with Democratic colleagues to draft principles that could become the starting point for immigration reform, and Paul broke out some Spanish during a recent speech suggesting a pathway for illegal immigrants to become citizens.

Perry’s support among Hispanics in Texas was decent, especially compared with Mitt Romney’s awkward outreach. Perry won 38 percent of the Hispanic vote in his 2010 Texas gubernatorial race, while Romney only took 27 percent of the national Hispanic vote. Texas Republicans attribute that to Hispanic voters’ familiarity with Perry, who as the state’s longest-serving governor, has also appointed Hispanics as state Supreme Court justices, as well as secretary of state and transportation commissioner.

“They see his commitment to inclusion. I think Republicans make a mistake when they separate [Hispanic voters] out. They care about the same issues that other Americans care about,” said Deirdre Delisi, a former Perry campaign aide and Texas transportation commissioner.

Perry also staked out a critical position on entitlement reform, memorably comparing Social Security to a Ponzi scheme in his book. Romney attacked Perry for his positions, but then later tapped Paul Ryan, the Republican leader on entitlement reform, as his running mate. Now Republicans are united on the belief that trimming entitlement benefits is necessary to get the budget under control.