With echoes of Mel Martinez, immigration puts Rubio in conflict with some conservatives
WASHINGTON — Before anyone thought Marco Rubio had a chance at winning the U.S. Senate race against Charlie Crist, a magazine cover audaciously declared, "Yes, HE CAN."
The National Review spotlight in July 2009 gave him credibility and fueled an anemic campaign account. "It was the first of several major turning points in the race," Rubio wrote in his book. "Supporters who were trying to attract donors to our cause now had a flattering article in a respected conservative publication to use."
The golden pat on the back is now a kick in the gut.
"Rubio's Folly," reads the latest National Review cover, featuring the Florida Republican laughing so hard his eyes are closed, sandwiched between Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer and Republican Sen. John McCain, fellow members of the immigration reform-leading Gang of 8.
Two weeks after their bill was released, critics have focused on Rubio, a strategy designed to chip away at his support because it is vital to gaining votes from other Republican lawmakers.
"He's the face of the bill. In a sense, it's a strategy, but in a sense it's not. I mean, who else is out there selling the bill?" said Mark Krikorian, author of the National Review article. "They need Rubio to dampen conservative opposition. If he walks way, it's all over."
Rubio started out strong, embarking on a media blitz to sell the ideas to conservative commentators such as Sean Hannity. But with the hulking bill now public, the opposition's voice is growing, on talk radio and blogs and social media. More Republican lawmakers have raised objections. Two protests have been held in Florida.