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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

How Marco Rubio is quieting conservative criticism of immigration reform



Sen. Marco Rubio's immigration roll out is a case study in political messaging. Since outlining his plan last weekend for the Wall Street Journal, Rubio has taken the ideas directly to influential conservative media voices.

Ingraham. O'Reilly. Hannity.

Each time he came away with their backing, a sign of his clout in the party and potential to forge a solution on the long-running immigration problem. (If any listner out in radio or TV land were questioning Rubio's conservative bona fides, he had usually strident words about President Obama over guns, at one point accusing him of lacking the "guts" to admit he "is not a believer in the 2nd Amendment.") 

Wednesday morning, Rubio went on Laura Ingraham's show. She was skeptical but not hostile and Rubio got in his points, stressing that illegal immigrants would have to pay fines and take other steps before getting in the back of the line to seek citizenship.

That night, Rubio reaffirmed those points with Fox's Bill O'Reilly. "I like your program. I think it's fair," O'Reilly said, an endorsement Rubio's staff quickly circulated.

Unmentioned were the similarities between what Rubio has outlined and what President Obama has sketched. Both deny they want to give amnesty. Both call for penalties before earned citizenship. Neither Rubio nor Obama has put forth a legislative proposal, so details remain unknown.

Here's what Obama calls for in his immigration plan (posted on the White House website in May 2011):


Still, Rubio tonight implied Obama wanted something different.

"He talks about a pathway to citizenship," Rubio said. "My problem with that is this: You can't do that in a way that's unfair to the people that are doing it the right way."

Since the election, in which Mitt Romney did even worse among Hispanics than John McCain, a number of Republicans have come around to immigration reform, among them Sean Hannity. Rubio paid him a visit Thursday after a TV appearance on Fox & Friends:

[Last modified: Thursday, January 17, 2013 6:40pm]


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