Sen. Marco Rubio did not avoid the obvious in a meeting with the tea party Tuesday, addressing his high-profile work on immigration reform.
For 30 seconds.
Then Rubio launched into a speech on the need to continue opposing Obamacare.
So continues the Florida Republican's effort to move past an issue that has damaged him among conservatives. A new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll shows Rubio's favorability/unfavorabilty numbers among tea party supporters has dropped from 52 percent/8 percent in February to 47 percent/15 percent now.
"He started off his remarks saying a lot of you don't agree with my position on immigration but I did what I thought was right for the country," Niger Innis, chief strategist of TheTeaParty.net, told the Tampa Bay Times. "He only spent about 30 seconds on it. He knows most people in the room disagree with him, but it was respectful. No eggs were thrown at him."
"He spent much more time — a good 10 minutes — talking about Obamacare and the moral and practical and economic responsibility that tea party members and conservatives have to derail Obamacare."
Rubio in his brief immigration remarks mentioned how he does not plan on pressing the House on immigration. "He's given his pound of flesh to those who want comprehensive immigration reform," Innis said. "We disagree with him, but it was courageous. But he's said his part. I think he's done. I think he realized he has to remind those in the tea party that on 95 percent of the issues, he is right in line with them. His record is sterling except for one major blemish."
Innis said "absolutely" Rubio can recover, though much depends on how the House addresses immigration: "They can't get steamrolled."
He said it would be unwise for tea party members to discard Rubio.
"Why would we want to alienate this rising star?" Innis said. "I'm not encouraging people to look past immigration, but — no pun intended — to have a comprehensive look at his record."