Home  »  Immigration  »  Politico: Marco Rubio’s Career In Tatters Over Amnesty Campaign


Jul 17, 2013 Comments Off Darby Crash

Excerpted from Politico: Todd Harris, the usually gregarious consultant to Sen. Marco Rubio, uncharacteristically resisted eight days of calls and emails seeking his thoughts for this column. When he finally did reply, the answer was: “to be honest, another story about Marco and immigration is not high on Christmas list!!”

No wonder. The very issue Rubio (and Harris) thought would be a game-changing, legacy-builder looks like a big liability for the Florida senator, at least right now. In the process, the self-confident presidential hopeful suddenly looks wobbly, even a little weak, as he searches for what’s next.

Rubio spent six months working over Senate Republicans only to get stiffed by 70 percent of them. He has gone underground on the issue ever since, ducking reporters on Capitol Hill.

His poll numbers in Iowa and nationally are falling among conservatives. And he clearly feels intense pressure to start acting more conservative — and quick.

One of his new, non-immigration pushes: Warning he won’t vote to fund the government unless Obamacare is thrown out. His latest speeches have made fiscal responsibility his new signature issue, including opposition to raising the debt limit unless Congress can pass a budget that balances within 10 years. And he plans to join other Republican senators in a push on abortion restrictions that will please the base, but has no chance of becoming law.

Some top conservatives are questioning Rubio’s judgment on immigration, arguing that he was “played” by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and other Democrats in the Senate’s Gang of Eight immigration working group.

Rubio refused to be interviewed for this column. But POLITICO’s Senate specialist, Manu Raju, cornered him in the Capitol on Wednesday to get his take.

“The Senate bill has passed the Senate,” he said. “What’s there to advocate for?” Rubio, a leader of the Gang of Eight, refused to join the rest of that gang in a meeting Tuesday with technology industry leaders to discuss putting pressure on the House. “I don’t think the best way to get a result for immigration reform in this country is to somehow try to muscle the House,” he said. The House, Rubio said, deserves “the time and space…to come up with their ideas about how to reform immigration – and I hope they will – but that’s up to them.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a member of the Gang of Eight, said Rubio’s silent treatment is understandable – but not the best way to pass a bill. “I have been there [in the House]: When a bunch of senators came over, it wasn’t a good news day,” Graham said. But he added: “If he’s got some influence in the House, now is a good time to use it.”

In background conversations, Rubio allies spin elaborate theories about how he might be threading the perfect political needle, getting credit for winning Senate passage without owning the responsibility for the complexities of implementation – and certain rage from some parts of the right — if it actually became law.

“The Senate passed a bill that he was essential to, and his colleagues now see him as a guy who got something important done,” said a Rubio ally who would be a key part of any presidential campaign. “The business, financial, tech and evangelical groups were for the bill – that’s all pretty good stuff. He showed political strength by not kowtowing to the … right. And if the bill fails, the only way Republicans could win the Hispanic vote in a national election would be with him on the ticket.”

But let’s rewind the camera to understand why this isn’t where Rubio wanted to be. He got into the immigration fight because he authentically believes the law needs to change – and because he knows that if he ever wants to run for the White House, he cannot look like a policy chump. So he plunged all-in. He worked the conservative media masterfully, winning the support of important talkers like Bill O’Reilly on Fox, and neutralizing many talk-radio hosts, who seemed to give Rubio the benefit of the doubt personally, even if they didn’t love the proposed law. He quietly cultivated House allies like House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan. His clear aim was to get a bill signed into law.

Until it wasn’t. So what gives?

Rubio appears to have miscalculated how much Republican support he could win in the Senate – and how much conservative backlash he could avoid outside of it. And now he feels stuck. Conservative intellectual leaders – notably Rich Lowry of National Review (and also a POLITICO columnist) and Bill Kristol of The Weekly Standard — are crusading against his bill, backed by the vast majority of conservatives in the House.

Lowry told us: “On Rubio’s first foray into major legislation, he was part of an effort that was a substantive debacle and handed Democrats an easy political weapon to use against the House – an amnesty bill that passed with Republican support.”

And as for Rubio’s plans on abortion and the deficit, Lowry said: “Fairly or not, everything he does now is going to be seen as an effort to make up for what he did on the immigration bill.”

An Iowa primary poll this month found Rubio had dropped to fifth among Republicans, after scoring first or tied for first in two polls earlier this year. The New York Times’s “Five Thirty Eight” blog calculated earlier this month: “In the four national surveys conducted in January, an average of 20 percent of Republicans said they would support Mr. Rubio for the party’s nomination in 2016. That number dropped to an average of 11 percent in the four primary polls conducted in June.” Keep reading