Marco Rubio was the great hope of the Republican elite who, in the wake of Mitt Romney’s defeat, cast about for a new standard-bearer who might repair the party’s disastrous image with nonwhite voters. The part of the plan where Rubio wins the nomination is going pretty well, as fellow party stalwarts fail to catch on, Rubio performs effectively in debates, and Donald Trump occupies the space that a more plausible challenger, like Ted Cruz, might have taken. What’s going less well is the part where Rubio maintains his political appeal to swing voters.
First Rubio was forced to repudiate his own comprehensive immigration-reform plan. Then he proposed a huge tax cut for the rich, followed by an even huger tax cut for the rich. He’s defended the Republican plan to shut down the federal government over Planned Parenthood. Now he is promising to oppose a path to citizenship any time over the next decade, even if he manages to secure the border first:
“I don’t think it’s a decision you have to make on the front end. The first two things you have to do is stop illegal immigration, then second you have to modernize our legal immigration system, and then third you can have a debate about how to even legalize people to begin with,” Rubio said. “And then ultimately in 10 or 12 years you could have a broader debate about how has this worked out and should we allow some of them to apply for green cards and eventually citizenship.”
Ten to 12 years means Rubio is ruling out a path to citizenship even if he wins a second term in office. He’s still young, handsome, and the son of Cuban immigrants, but Rubio has locked himself into some pretty right-wing positions if he wins. And the Iowa caucus is still more than four months away!
Update: Alex Conant, Rubio’s communications director, emails, “Your piece about immigration misunderstands his position. The position stated yesterday is no different than the one that Marco outlined in his book, American Dreams. We can’t even begin to debate what to do with those here illegally until we first secure borders and modernize legal immigration system. After that is achieved, we can have a broader debate about what to do with those here illegally. Marco has repeatedly stated – and did so again last night – that he is open to green cards after 10 years and he has outlined a specific idea on how to do that.”
I don’t understand what about this contradicts the characterization above. The key thing about Rubio’s statement to Hannity (which is emphasized by Sahil Kapur, the reporter whose story I have linked above) is that he promises to postpone the debate over a path to citizenship for 10-12 years. Here is the video: