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Florida Republican Party calls out Crist on tuition flip-flop

The Republican Party of Florida on Wednesday called out Charlie Crist's flip-flop on in-state tuition for children of illegal immigrants.

It's true, he has. Crist once opposed the measure but is now saying Gov. Rick Scott has failed to push it hard enough with the 2014 session about to expire.

Less known is the shifting tone from the Florida GOP's star in Washington, Sen. Marco Rubio. As a legislator, the son of Cuban immigrants supported bills to grant the tuition break.

It was jarring, then, to hear Rubio in October 2011 say this: "As a general rule, people in the United States who are here without documents should not benefit from programs like in-state tuition." He said carve-outs, while a worthy objective, have become harder to justify.

Rubio made that remark during a forum in Washington. It came before he dove into the immigration debate, first pursuing a version of the Dream Act that would not lead to citizenship, then becoming an architect of the Senate's comprehensive bill in 2013. The moderate state legislator-turned-anti-"amnesty" Senate candidate had gone full circle. (In February of this year, Rubio was again supportive of in-state tuition, but put the focus on overall federal law changes toward immigrants.)

In 2006, Crist said legislators "did the right thing" by rejecting the tuition bill. Now a Democrat, he's using the issue before the Legislature as a tool against Scott.

"They've got less than two weeks to do the right thing," Crist said Tuesday at Capital Tiger Bay.

As for Scott, we can't find a past instance in which he was on record opposing in-state tuition. But he ran in 2010 as hard-liner in support of Arizona-style immigration enforcement laws.

Dole wary of youth

Bob Dole, 90, isn't sold on some young Republicans angling for president. "A number of the younger members, first-termers like Rand Paul, (Marco) Rubio and that extreme-right-wing guy — Ted Cruz? All running for president now. I don't think they've got enough experience yet," Dole told the Wichita Eagle.

That reminds us that Rubio got his first taste of politics working for Dole's 1996 presidential campaign. From a 2010 Tampa Bay Times profile:

In his final year of law school but looking like a teenager, Rubio sat down to interview with Bob Dole's presidential campaign. He buzzed about a ticket that included former star quarterback Jack Kemp.

Al Cardenas, overseeing the Florida effort and not very optimistic about the outcome, took a sip of café con leche and hired Rubio on the spot.

"I said to myself, 'This is what we need, someone so young that failure is not an option, who hasn't gone through everything to have a more practical outlook,' " Cardenas recalled.

Rubio plunged into the job, forming relationships that would propel him to the West Miami City Commission and a history-making term as the first Cuban-American speaker of the Florida House.

Rubio's backers point to that leadership post to say his experience is broader than the Senate.

Florida Republican Party calls out Crist on tuition flip-flop 04/23/14 [Last modified: Wednesday, April 23, 2014 7:26pm]
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