For a while, we’ve been tracking Marco Rubio’s slide to the extreme right on immigration, artfully camouflaged by consultant-crafted soundbites. Once upon a time the courageous supporter of a path to citizenship — even getting himself declared “The Republican Savior” by TIME — Rubio backtracked on his own bill barely two years later when he sensed the political tides changing.
While many politicians shift their positions over time, Rubio’s lurches have been Olympian, gold-medal-winning feats. All the while, as activist Michelangelo Signorile noted in his new column earlier today, media have continued to portray him as moderate — even though he’s slammed to the right on many other issues important to general election voters — and as the “only candidate outside the hard right to perform well in the caucuses.”
This wasn’t any clearer than Rubio’s recent showing in Iowa, where many built up the expectation game and preemptively declared him the winner of the night, even though he came in third after Ted Cruz and Donald Trump. And, sure enough, Rubio trotted out on his victory stage, grinning like he’d won Miss America when he was really just the second runner-up.
Has Marco Rubio Finally Been Exposed?
But, Rubio’s house of cards appeared to come toppling down following a disastrous performance in the Republican debate in New Hampshire over the weekend. The candidate appeared to almost robotically malfunction (a hilarious Twitter “glitch” bot quickly went viral) repeating the same, nearly-verbatim attack on President Obama not once, not twice, not three times, but four times within a 41-minute period.
“Over time, you’ll start to notice that the paragraphs that Rubio speaks in start to sound a lot alike. That’s because they are,” noted Chris Cilliza of The Fix. “And, you’ll start to see Rubio as less the smartest kid in the class and more as the kid who memorized every answer in the book but doesn’t have much of a clue about what it all really means.”
Immigration Advocates Have Been Onto Marco Rubio’s Doublespeak For Months
Many pundits and donors had long branded Rubio as the “smart one” in the Republican bunch, but his debate performance should come as a surprise to no one tracking his moves since he disowned his own immigration bill. AV’s Frank Sharry, who has watched Rubio up close on the immigration issue, was sounding the alarm about him back in August:
“He wants people to think he’s for reform when, in fact, his approach means no reform ever,” Sharry said. “He’s doing this so he can say to donors and to Latinos, ‘I’m with you,’ and say to conservatives who are angry at him for working on the Gang of Eight bill, ‘I’m with you.’ … The right loves it, because they know that immigration reform will never happen under his plan.”
And this past month, AV’s Juan Escalante wrote: “As a presidential hopeful, Senator Rubio trades on his family’s immigrant experience, while simultaneously advocating policies that keep immigrants down.”
The question is, what happens next as the New Hampshire primary is hours away. Donald Trump is expected to to win first place, and Rubio has been hot on his trail mimicking his extremist rhetoric along the way. Republicans are still pinning their hopes on making Rubio their general election candidate, but with Latino approval of the Republican Party at a new low — and Trump and Rubio going hand-in-hand — this could prove to be a risky gamble as the key demographic becomes more and more vital to winning the White House.
Rubio has long reeked of ambition, Sharry declaring him a “cynical politician who’d prefer to pander rather than lead” – the question is whether New Hampshire voters have finally clued in.