On Rubio, It’s Bloomberg vs. Bloomberg

The New York mayor's pro-gun-control group and pro-immigration-reform group have fought and celebrated, respectively, the same man, Senator Marco Rubio

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Jason Reed / Reuters

Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida, on Capitol Hill in Washington on April 18, 2013

Michael Bloomberg’s pro-gun-control group, Mayors Against Illegal Guns, has put Marco Rubio in its crosshairs for voting against post-Newtown efforts to tighten firearms laws. At the same time, Bloomberg’s pro-immigration-reform group, Partnership for a New American Economy, has celebrated the Florida Senator’s efforts to bring Republicans to support comprehensive reform.

In Washington, donating to both Democrats and Republicans is far from unheard of, but the New York City mayor is taking that sort of pragmatism to an entirely new level. Rubio, in other words, pits Bloomberg against himself, a contest he is sure to win — and lose.

Bloomberg’s gun-control group ran an ad against the potential 2016 Republican presidential candidate in his home state of Florida, featuring a pint-size cartoon character.

(MORE: Behind Bloomberg’s Gun-Buyer Background-Check Ad Blitz)

“Marco Rubio, a new Senator, but already looking past Florida, thinking of running for President,” the ad, released in April, stated. “And that has Rubio running to the right, opposing a bill on comprehensive background checks.”

But Bloomberg’s pro-immigration group has repeatedly praised Rubio’s work, including posting the excerpts of a positive story about Rubio titled “Rubio Shapes Immigration Into GOP Issue” to its website and hyping op-eds on its Facebook page.

The two groups, which are directed from New York’s city hall, appear to be working at cross purposes, with the stated mission of at least the gun group to unseat opponents of tougher gun laws.

(PHOTOS: The Ground Zero of Immigration)

“There have to be repercussions for bad votes,” New York City Deputy Mayor Howard Wolfson, a senior adviser to Bloomberg, told the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent in May. “Otherwise people have a permission structure to vote that way. If there is no repercussion for voting the wrong way, why vote the right way?” (A spokesman for Rubio declined to comment about the Bloomberg groups.)

But John Feinblatt, chief adviser to Bloomberg for policy and strategic planning, said the groups’ speaking out both for and against Rubio is a function of their core purpose: advocating for what’s best for New York City residents.

“It’s not about the Senator; it’s not about an election campaign,” he told TIME. “It’s about making sure we support issues that are important for the people of New York City. The purpose is to push the issue and get legislation over the finish line.”

PHOTOS: Marco Rubio, Republican Savior