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In N.H., Perry stumbles on legal voting age

MANCHESTER, N.H. - Falling in the polls, Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry can’t afford to discount all voters between 18 and 21 years old. But that’s what he seemed to do in a speech today at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College.

At the end of his stump speech at a town hall meeting, Perry said, “Those of you that will be 21 by November the 12th, I ask for your support and your vote. Those of you who won’t be, work hard.”

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The legal voting age is 18, not 21. The date of the 2012 general election is Nov. 6.

It was the latest in a series of campaign gaffes Perry has made – most notably, forgetting during a debate the name of the third federal agency he wants to cut.

Voting age aside, Perry used the event to take a hard line on illegal immigration, as he received the endorsement of Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

Perry criticized the Obama administration for not doing enough to secure the US borders. As Texas governor, Perry said he spent $400 million on border security, including sending ranger reconnaissance teams and the National Guard to the border. He said he has made strides in preventing the trafficking of weapons, drugs, and people. “The problem is no state has the resources available to patrol and secure that border,” Perry said. “What we need is a president that has the courage, who has the will to implement and send the resources to that border to secure it.”

As president, Perry pledged to secure the border with Mexico within 12 months. He said he would deploy thousands of National Guard troops immediately, while training border patrol agents to be a permanent guard. He would also have the federal government cooperate with state and local law enforcement to shut down smuggling routes.

Speaking of illegal immigrants arrested for non-violent crimes, Perry said, “My policy will be to detain and deport every illegal alien who is apprehended in this country.”

Perry said the country must first shut down the border before talking about what to do with illegal immigrants who are here today.

Arpaio, of Maricopa County, calls himself “America’s toughest sheriff.” Numerous lawsuits have been filed against Arpaio for the conditions of his jails, and he has been the subject of federal investigations. One man booed Arpaio when he stood up to speak. But in endorsing Perry, he largely shied away from the controversy.

“I decided to endorse Governor Perry because he’s out there right now, he’s not just talking, he’s doing the job,” Arpaio said, pointing to the resources Perry sent to the border to fight drug trafficking and illegal immigration. “Nothing against all the other candidates, but they’re not boots on the ground right now. He’s the only one.”

Perry declined to take questions. Arpaio, asked afterwards about the complaints over his treatment of inmates, responded, “It’s not the Hilton hotel.”

Shira Schoenberg can be reached at sschoenberg@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @shiraschoenberg.
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