Marco Rubio’s Agile Courtship of Conservative Media

The task of pitching an immigration-reform bill to the conservative press has fallen to the Republican star.

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J. Scott Applewhite / AP

Sen. Marco Rubio center, answers a reporter's question as he and a bipartisan group of leading senators announce that they have reached agreement on the principles of sweeping legislation to rewrite the nation's immigration laws, during a news conference at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 28, 2013.

In the 48 hours since a bipartisan Senate working group unveiled the contours of an immigration-reform package, Marco Rubio has embraced the considerable challenge of selling the deal to the conservative media. It’s a delicate task.

After all, talk radio has scuttled a similar immigration deal before. Back in the spring of 2007, at the tail end of a long bipartisan to pass an immigration-reform bill backed by a Republican president, conservatives yakkers elevated immigration to their number one bugbear. According to a report from the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism, from April to June of 2007 — the month the bill went down to defeat — immigration skyrocketed from a secondary topic to the signal issue on conservative talk radio, consuming nearly 30% of airtime. “Did talk radio kill the immigration bill? That is harder to prove,” Pew wrote. But there is no question right-wing radio ratcheted up the intensity of the issue and contributed to its demise.

By backing an immigration compromise, the Florida Senator runs the risk of alienating conservative voters who oppose so-called amnesty in all forms. Rubio rose to stardom partly because of his perceived ability, as a charismatic Cuban-American, to repair the Republican Party’s frayed ties with Hispanic voters. And yet until this week, he opposed some of the provisions in the bill he’s now flogging. As a Senate candidate in 2010, he slammed the immigration-reform framework crafted during George W. Bush‘s Administration by John McCain and Ted Kennedy. The current blueprint, McCain acknowledged on Monday, has “very little difference” from the old one. Getting tagged as soft on immigration can be fatal in a Republican Party whose presidential nomination Rubio may be seeking in four years. Just ask Rick Perry. Everyone remembers the Texas Governor’s cringe-inducing brain cramp at a debate, but his slide to irrelevance was set in motion by his support for in-state tuition for illegal immigrants.

So far, however, Rubio has run the gauntlet with nary a scratch. His charm offensive has included sparring sessions with conservative pundits like Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Mark Levin and Mike Huckabee. Each of them praised Rubio, even if they equivocated on the bill itself. And while Rubio may not win them all over, his outreach may muffle a conservative backlash that would endanger the legislation’s prospects.

This could happen again. Just ask Limbaugh. “It’s up to me and Fox News, and I don’t think Fox News is that invested in this,” he said Monday. “I don’t think there’s any Republican opposition to this of any majority consequence or size.  We’ll have to wait and see and find out. But this is one of those, just keep plugging away, plugging away, plugging away until you finally beat down the opposition.” It was not a declaration of intent, but a warning — and one Rubio was smart to heed.

The Florida Senator isn’t the only member of the Gang of Eight pitching the press — McCain and Chuck Schumer have been dogged as well — but his role is instrumental, because he has the conservative bona fides and the broad popularity to defang Limbaugh and Co. Rubio’s courtship of the right has also been canny. He casts the proposal as preferable to both the status quo (“what we have now is de facto amnesty,” Rubio said) and the more lenient path to citizenship supported by Barack Obama. “I know the president’s gonna take us in a direction that I would not be comfortable with and I don’t think it’s good for America,” Rubio said. “I’m just trying to do the best I can with what’s already a tough situation.”

Here he frames immigration a choice between competing visions, not a referendum on the bill itself, about which he has been less effusive than his colleagues. Barack Obama took the same approach to fend off Mitt Romney, and so far it has worked for Rubio. “What you are doing is admirable and noteworthy,” Limbaugh told him. “I am going to take a much closer look at this and I am going to try and keep an open mind about it,” Levin said.

In the end, Rubio may not win their support. But tamping down their opposition would be a victory of its own, both for the bill and for the Senator himself.

Correction: This post originally stated Rick Perry was hurt in the Republican presidential primary by his comparatively lenient stance on border security; in fact, it was his defense of in-state tuition for illegal immigrants. 

52 comments
melonheadx13
melonheadx13

that rubio is about the best double talking equivocator since romney.  let's hope  some new blood democrats like the castro brothers of texas can get their share of media coverage to highlight the distinct differences between the 2 parties.

rubio's song and dance on whether or not he believed in evolution was a fine example of his equivocation when he said that either we could never know or did not know now the answers to questions about the origin of the universe, the earth (especially its age which scientists are adamant about its age contrary to rubio's statement that he didn't know nor could anyone really know for sure), and the origin of man.  of course he appeals to the low information voters of his state, immigrant cubanos with their rabid anti castro right wing views, and hopes to appeal to latino catholics with what we can only guess are his creationist belief.

KountyKobbler
KountyKobbler

He failed to convert Rush with his dialog.. only got more mud stirred up with Limbaugh world..  Only thinkers  would see anything to his arguments.. and its lost on most of that audience of extremist ditto heads.

JimDunbar
JimDunbar

Wow...McCain said it all on the networks that the only reason why this legislation is going forward, that is if Rush allows it, is the slam dunk election where SuperPacs invested the GDP of several foreign countries and lost. Rubio is an unknown with a pretty face and Latino last name. And I want to see his birth

oldbones24
oldbones24

Very few people in FL still respect this man. He is listening to the wrong people and it will bring him down.

MikeBushman
MikeBushman

Give Rubio and the others credit. The bipartisan agreement did something unusual - starting with principles as the basis of policy. Whether the actual language follows through on the principles remains to be seen, but the relevant principles are: 1) all men and women are created equal, 2) those who break the law should not have a better chance of succeeding than those who follow it; 3) as a nation of immigrants, we need hard-working, tax-paying immigrants, 4) an integrating nation that speaks a common language (while also promoting multi-lingual education) has a better chance of avoiding conflict over the centuries than a segregated nation, and 5) America can only fully guarantee principle #1 for citizens and legal immigrants. The outline document appears to address these principles, but the real issue is can we trust successive administrations and congresses to follow through on border security and improved immigration processes. History suggests this is a stretch, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't try. Read "Melting Point 2040" for a history-based story of what will happen to America if we don't follow these principles and don't fix our current badly broken system.

mydads1st
mydads1st

Get real with the kudos for Marco Rubio. He has no charisma or charm or character. he is of the same caliber as Ted Cruz of Texas. Ted Cruz is a Canadian by birth and a TEA party bigot by training. His Hispanic name does not qualify him to make changes to the original Dream Act and his efforts to water-down the original Dream Act show the narrow concepts he has towards those who have family in the states. His version of the Dream Act creates multiple layers of citizenship and too many hoops to jump through for undocumented's to be able to attain citizenship. Ted Cruz is a TEA-type and has openly railed against amnesty and inclusion. John McCain, Marco Rubio, Jeff Flake and Lindsey Graham are all TEA-types and suspect at the very least. The Dream Act was ready in 2007 and scheduled for vote in 2010 and the TEA-Republicans intentionally held it back. Many, many Cubans who emigrated from Cuba - including those whose families left under Batista, well before the Revolution brought Castro to power - are a no-fit in the 'Hispanic' and 'immigrant' political terminology. The people crossing into the US from or through Mexico undergo a completely different experience, and they are generally from a vastly difference socio-economic background than were the Cubans. And then there is Cruz, whom you have so accurately described. He is a "Panstick #3" Hispanic ... it is a darker color than is he. He and Rubio are "Hispanic" light, all prettied up to be marketable to the Conservative Anglo base of the Tea Party and the Republican Party. Neither would last 5 minutes in the real world of Hispanics in the US. On a related note about money - did you know Social Security(F.I.C.A.) taxes are paid only on the first $100,110.00 of income(wages) and billionaires and millionaires do not pay any additional taxes over that first $100,110.00. Tax liability should be spread equally and equitably across the entire population. The rich are getting richer, and the poor are suffering the consequences. We well know the truth of the concentration of wealth in the hands of fewer and fewer people and the concentration of power in stricter, less compassionate hands. "Sweep the HOUSE CLEAN....in 2014"

ramon
ramon

What an outstanding writer!!!


grape_crush
grape_crush

> In the end, Rubio may not win their support.

He already has their support. This is just a political show intended to prove that GOPers Can Do the Right Thing for a Latino constituency while still being able to keep the anti-immigrant wing from going to the mattresses against an Obama-led immigration reform bill.

Oh, it's for the media as well, who apparently suffer from memory loss as to why immigration reform hasn't happened yet. They'll be more than happy to write those "GOP divorces Tea Party" stories as part of the ersatz 'conservatives move towards political center' theme the Republican Powers-That-Be want to disseminate.

sacredh
sacredh

"This could happen again. Just ask Limbaugh. “It’s up to me and Fox News, and I don’t think Fox News is that invested in this,” he said Monday. “I don’t think there’s any Republican opposition to this of any majority consequence or size."

.

Next on the republican agenda: Downplaying their opposition to The Civil Rights Act. 

reallife
reallife

Looks like Alex Altman's got the white house memo .... ah you guys are getting too predictable... lol

24AheadDotCom
24AheadDotCom

Here's an old Alex Altman headline: "Politburo Officials Continue Charm Offensive of Pravda and Izvestia".

If the stiffs in the conservative media fold to Rubio based on orders they've gotten from someone else (such as Murdoch), that's not something to celebrate. It's the job of reporters to fill in the gaps and ask the tough questions those hacks won't ask.

Obviously, Alex Altman isn't up to the task.

melonheadx13
melonheadx13

@KountyKobbler wow!  you see rubio as an intellectual compared to limbaugh's audience?  they are all delusional ignorant bigots as far as i can see.

melonheadx13
melonheadx13

@JimDunbar birth certificate, immigration staus, college transcripts, medical records, baptismal certificate, etc.  and while we're at it a polygraph because i think this guy omits the truth or twists it as much or more than lyin' ryan or flip flop mitt.

aztecian
aztecian

@MikeBushman bushguy...the laws need to change.  they were written by a bunch of slave owners.  rubio is nothing but a rethug pawn.  no progressive will ever buy into a racist politician just because his facade is hispanic.  wake up!!!

reallife
reallife

@mydads1st"Sweep the HOUSE CLEAN....in 2014"   hahahaha  keep dreaming...  there will be no obamaphones available in 2014 - SHELLACKING 2.0 in 2014 

RoccoJohnson
RoccoJohnson

@mydads1st 

How Hispanic is Hispanic enough for you? Your divisive idealism is what's keeping Washington from reaching bipartisan compromise at all.

I don't know much about Rubio, or his politics, yet there he is standing with Democrats looking for a bipartisan solution to the problem. I personally don't have a problem with a politician who reconsiders his stance on an issue and comes to a new conclusion at a later time—you know, kind of like Obama did on gay marriage?

aztecian
aztecian

@mydads1st he's a white-rethug with a latino surname...just the same old teabagger PR.  no substance, no conscience...a sociopath with the faux news obstructionist network. 

reallife
reallife

@grape_crush  Rubio still has to prove that he's a real conservative to win hispanic votes like Reagan and W did

RoccoJohnson
RoccoJohnson

@grape_crush 

Yeah, let's not forget, though, that if immigrants voted Republican instead of Democrat, the Democrats wouldn't give a rat's behind about them. Of course the Republicans are pandering for Hispanic votes now, because they have to. That's politics, and both sides are as dirty as the other. Neither side really truly cares about Hispanics, it's the votes of Hispanics they court.

reallife
reallife

@sacredh pick up a history book once in a while(i know, i know, it takes too much effort, it's easier to watch msnbc) - go read who opposed the Civil Rights Act - go ahead and educate yourself - i know, i know it's hard to admit that you were duped but make an effort - it'll make you feel good about yourself - 

By party

The original House version:[16]

  • Democratic Party: 152–96   (61–39%)
  • Republican Party: 138–34   (80–20%)

Cloture in the Senate:[17]

  • Democratic Party: 44–23   (66–34%)
  • Republican Party: 27–6   (82–18%)

The Senate version:[16]

  • Democratic Party: 46–21   (69–31%)
  • Republican Party: 27–6   (82–18%)

The Senate version, voted on by the House:[16]

  • Democratic Party: 153–91   (63–37%)
  • Republican Party: 136–35   (80–20%)


MikeBushman
MikeBushman

@aztecian @MikeBushman We agree that the laws need to change. Our current laws and enforcement don't work for the nation, its citizens, legal immigrants or illegal immigrants. Our immigration process is antiquated. We don't allow enough immigration to meet our population growth needs and expand our economy. But we have to follow principles, and the bipartisan agreement starts with a basis in principle. You don't want a legal system that allows people who break the law to succeed while you follow it and are taken from for doing so. I would ask that you look at the issue logically, not with emotion, just as the eight senators appear to have done. 

fitty_three
fitty_three

@reallife

Error 0x000DF:

Function call GOP.GetElected(): Wrong data type::Function arguments empty.

reallife
reallife

@aztecian @mydads1st  yeah!  viva Zapata! viva la revolucion!   lol you get everything in this commie tabloid   hahahahahaha unreal

sacredh
sacredh

reallife, when the Civil Rights Act passed, Lyndon Johnson said it would cost the democrats the south for a generation. It was closer to a generation and a half. Those southern democrats turned into republicans. That's history. Richard Nixon helped to formulate the Southern Strategy because of that. The republicans are still running on the Southern Strategy even though it's less effective with each passing election. The republicans have lost the popular vote in 5 out the last 6 elections. The demographics of the country have changed. The republican party hasn't.

fitty_three
fitty_three

@reallife

Have you ever thought to ask the Black community just why they wouldn't touch the GOP with a 40 foot pole?

JJTitan83
JJTitan83

@reallifeBy history book, do you mean the wikipedia page you just copied that from?  Also, you failed to recognize the context of the history you were "studying."  Many of those "Democrat" votes in 1964 were from SOUTHERN STATES. There was a time when essentially the beliefs of Republicans and Democrats were opposite.  That is a very very shortened and extremely broad thing to say, I know.  But these Dixiecrats as they were called were similar to Republicans today in that they were less in favor of civil rights than the other party.  You understand this yes?  Since you are the history book reader.

reallife
reallife

@KevinGroenhagen @24AheadDotCom  yeah maybe Kroft can ask Menendez about his "charitable" work with teenagers in the Dominican Republic - Don Hewitt and Mike Wallace must be so proud.

reallife
reallife

@sacredh  i would stay inside if i were you - there is a lightning storm out there

sacredh
sacredh

Obama has promised to devote more time to the Bible. He's busy making corrections as we speak.

sacredh
sacredh

Don, I hear they'replacing that giant statue of Jesus in Rio with an even bigger one of Obama.

DonQuixotic
DonQuixotic

@sacredh 

All arms seized will of course be smelted down to make a 1,000 ft. tall statue of Obama on top of Ground Zero in New York.  The shoes of the statue will double as a mosque.

sacredh
sacredh

lol. As I sat at my desk (outside), I devised devious plans (checked machinery and cleaned three buildings) to deny red state patriots ( as if there are any) their God given right to arm bears.

DonQuixotic
DonQuixotic

@sacredh 

Of course.  We all have to take shifts posting here on Swampland for the sake of Obama's Republic of Hitlerstan.  We're paid in entitlements and Socialist dollars.

MrObvious
MrObvious

@sacredh 

Sure Sacredh, your work is when you cash your gubmint freeloader check. The one that's taken directly out of Rusties retirement check.

sacredh
sacredh

reallife, I just woke up a ferw minutes ago. I'm working midnights. Some of us do work for a living.

MrObvious
MrObvious

@reallife @MrObvious

bzzzzz bzzzz bzzzzzzz  you'd be nothing without the hive and without someone to follow

Ironic considering that paulejb coined the term hive and you just felt you needed to hark on about a term that didn't originate with you.

you're liberals - by definition you can't think for yourselves - us on the other hand value the "individual" above everything else - never mind - you'll never understand it 

I'm guessing that's why you find disagreement around here among 'libruls' but uniform zombie thinking about 'induviduals' like you that posts about the same links and craps from the same DNA purified rightie websites. 


Because you know, you're such a bunch of free thinkers. Maybe that's why GOP have been purging people who speak up or out and primaried anyone that don't walk in lock step.


Seriously Rusty; aren't you going to accuse me of being a coward hiding behind an anonymous ID as well?

DonQuixotic
DonQuixotic

@reallife @DonQuixotic @MrObvious

I find this ironic from someone who never presents any form of argument and keeps sneaking back in here to spam offensive posts.

there is sancho! you're getting slow, old boy


How about that.

DonQuixotic
DonQuixotic

@reallife @MrObvious 

I find this ironic from someone who never presents any form of argument and keeps sneaking back in here to spam offensive posts.

reallife
reallife

@MrObvious @reallife   bzzzzz bzzzz bzzzzzzz  you'd be nothing without the hive and without someone to follow - you're liberals - by definition you can't think for yourselves - us on the other hand value the "individual" above everything else - never mind - you'll never understand it

MrObvious
MrObvious

@reallife @MrObvious 

Rusty, 


we don't need 'a hive' to deal with someone like you. We knew that you would come back. You can't help yourself. Without us you got nothing because you're such an ideological lightweight in your own movement that you find existence by trolling 'liburls'. Grow up.