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Rubio is Still Running Away from Immigration Reform as Jeb Bush Leans In

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At Reuters today is a piece about Marco Rubio’s desperate attempt to rehabilitate himself with conservative Republicans, after losing some of their love by joining the Senate Gang of 8 on immigration reform.

As Reuters notes:

A year after falling out of favor with fellow conservatives over his push to reform the U.S. immigration system, one-time Tea Party golden boy Marco Rubio is rebuilding bridges with activists on the Republican right who could smooth his way toward a possible White House run in 2016.

Rubio’s office is working on economic policies with the influential Heritage Action for America group, which fiercely criticized a bipartisan bill last year partly written by Rubio that would have relaxed immigration laws.

And the first-term U.S. senator from Florida appears to have made up with Tea Party patriarch Jim DeMint, a one-time mentor whose criticism also helped sink the immigration bill.

In our opinion, it’s pretty ironic that conservatives and Tea Partiers have been giving Rubio such a hard time over immigration reform.  Truth is, Rubio’s support for the legislation waffled all throughout the Senate debate.  As Think Progress chronicles here, in the weeks leading up to final passage of S. 744, Rubio threatened to vote against his own bill, urged Senators not to endorse the bill, and refused to say if he still supported the bill.  Rubio did end up voting for S. 744 — only to shift course once again and endorse a piecemeal strategy some months later.  Nearly a year later, Rubio is still trying to figure out where he stands— not a strong place to be for a so-called leader.

He’s also being overshadowed by Jeb Bush, another potential 2016 contender from the same state, who has been making headlines leaning into immigration reform rather than running away from it.  Bush has drawn a lot of scorn for his sympathy from anti-immigrant types in recent weeks, but the establishment is still encouraging him to run.  Maybe Rubio would find more people getting his back if he hadn’t spent the last year flip-flopping all over the place.

(It’s also worth mentioning Rand Paul, who has recently been talking about immigration reform as if he were a champion for the issue.  Earth to Paul: you didn’t vote for the Senate bill.  And in fact, Paul started backing away from the process pretty early on after initially showing support.)

Ultimately, whether the GOP nominee is Rubio or Bush or Paul, it’s going to be like what Tom Donohue said at a Chamber of Commerce event this morning.  If Republicans don’t pass immigration reform this year, there’s no point to running a candidate in 2016.  They will have already driven themselves off the demographic cliff.