Just whom does Marco Rubio want to represent in the U.S. Senate? The national Republican conservatives who applaud his call to count only "legal American citizens" in the 2010 Census? Or Floridians, who would lose the ability to recoup millions in federal aid to cover services for legal and illegal residents?
Rubio made the illogical Census remark in a written statement Wednesday to brand his primary opponent, Gov. Charlie Crist, as soft on immigration. Crist, like most clear-thinking public officials, says a full count is essential because it determines Florida's share of $400 billion in federal aid and its number of seats in Congress. Excluding immigrants might make for a rousing fundraiser in Washington. But it won't pay the bills at Florida's schools or public hospitals.
Rubio knows better, which is why he flip-flopped Thursday, an embarrassment for the former state House speaker's upstart campaign. The Miami Republican now says he favors counting foreigners who are not U.S. citizens but who live legally in Florida. Yet Rubio still favors excluding illegal immigrants, and this position conflicts with his record in the Florida House. As speaker, he killed several bills that would have made it harder to employ and care for illegals and easier to arrest and deport them.
Appealing to extremists on immigration in the Republican Party may help Rubio's national fundraising. But Floridians will choose the Republican Senate nominee, and embracing a philosophy that is good for raising cash but bad for the state is no way to win votes.