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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Marco Rubio's balancing act: image vs. roots



WASHINGTON — Sen. Marco Rubio's skittishness on immigration reform in recent days is calculated to send a resounding message to conservatives: I've got your back.

That Rubio even has to wave the flag raises the question if conservatives will have his when the bill is revealed this week.

Until now, it has been a steamy affair. Rubio has raced past the title of "rising star" and sits atop early polls for the 2016 presidential nomination. But his ascendency faces its first real challenge with the immigration proposal — underscoring the precarious line he straddles.

Rubio wants to appeal to a broader audience, as signaled by him jumping into the contentious issue. But he is trying not to alienate the conservative forces that got him here.

Rubio, 41, is in search of the sweet spot.

"It's really hard. Being able to satisfy both of those desires at once really requires a very significant balancing act," said Norm Ornstein, a congressional expert at the American Enterprise Institute.

Rubio has built one of the most conservative voting records in Washington, but largely due to the positive arc of his story as the son of Cuban immigrants, and his youthful image, he has managed to avoid being cast as an ideologue. (full story here)

[Last modified: Saturday, April 6, 2013 4:26pm]


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