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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Rubio keeps up immigration offensive as heat rises on right



Sen. Marco Rubio is maintaining an aggressive effort to quell conservative backlash against his work on the immigration bill, with a column today on the Fox News website and an appearance tonight on Sean Hannity's show.

"I thought long and hard before taking on this issue," the Florida Republican writes for Fox. "I understand how divisive it can be. I’ve seen how the left has used it to accuse opponents of their version of reform of being bigots and racists. And I would much rather be having a debate on the more fundamental ways we can grow our economy and get our debt and spending under control. But with or without us, the president and the Democrats who control the Senate were going to bring this issue up."

Yet objections from the right are growing. Yesterday, influential conservative commentator Erick Erickson backed down from supporting the overhaul, and pointed in part to Rubio's media strategy rebutting critics -- a war waged through Twitter, news releases and in interviews.

It's a fine line between savvy and panicked, but critical. No other member of the Gang of 8 is working as hard -- yet none has more at stake politically than Rubio.

"I think Senator Marco Rubio wants to do the right thing," Erickson wrote on Redstate. "I think he set before himself a good, but unpopular task. He should be commended for trying, at least, a Nixon goes to China moment on immigration. But I think the actions of some members of his staff coordinating attacks on solid conservatives is undermining the cause he and I both believe in. Ultimately, they are playing right into the hands of President Obama and the Democrats."

In his column today, Rubio writes: "The opponents of reform raise important points about not rewarding the violation of the law. I, too, have felt the frustration many feel that our nation’s generosity has been taken advantage of by some. But policy-making is about solving problems. And to pick the right solution, you have to weigh the realistic alternatives. Deporting all illegal immigrants is not a practical solution. But ignoring the fact that they are here is just as bad."

He isn't just punching back. Rubio today against asked people to visit his website and offer ideas to improve the immigration bill.

[Last modified: Tuesday, April 23, 2013 2:04pm]


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