One of the most interesting angles in the Jeb Bush reversal on citizenship this week has been his fellow Floridian (and 2016 rival) Sen. Marco Rubio’s response. Rubio predicted to Talking Points Memo today that Bush would eventually swing back to his traditional support for citizenship, given his long history in favor. Rubio said that Bush’s comments on today’s Morning Joe suggested “that he could support a plan that has a path so long as it doesn’t give favoritism to those who violated the law—and that’s exactly what we’re working on.”
Talking Points Memo also noted what an irony it is for Rubio to be defending a path to citizenship while Bush is carefully dancing around it. As Benjy Sarlin noted, it “represents an ironic role reversal” for the two. “Just a few months ago,” Sarlin wrote, “it was Rubio who publicly opposed a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants and Bush who explicitly favored the idea.”
Bush’s semi-defection also seems to have strengthened support for citizenship among Rubio and the other Gang of 8 Senators. In explaining why he supports citizenship today, Rubio made one of his clearest arguments for immigration reform with citizenship. As he said to reporters:
I thought about that issue a lot and [went] back and forth on it before I signed on to my principles and I just concluded that it’s not good for the country in the long term to have milions and millions of people who are forever prohibited from becoming citizens. That hasn’t worked out well for Europe.
The citizenship question has become an important issue distinguishing the two Florida politicians, at a time when they are both considered to be frontrunners in the 2016 presidential race. Bush’s misstep has led to charges that he is politically “rusty” and “outdated” after having spent years out of office.
The heavy criticism Bush has received for his pivot this week (Harry Reid today said Bush had “made a fool of himself” and was “devolving”) is already leading Bush to start to pivot back to his longtime stance supporting citizenship. As Executive Director of America’s Voice Frank Sharry said on a press call today, “I predict that Jeb Bush will become an outspoken proponent of immigration reform with a pathway to citizenship by the end of the week—and Marco Rubio will take credit for it.”