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Has Marco Rubio Been Resurrected?

An objectively incorrect litmus test damaged him in the first place.

Henry Gomez


March 11, 2014 - 10:21 pm

Two weeks ago, Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) gave an impassioned speech about Cuba and Venezuela on the Senate floor. This was his response to a floor speech by Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), who had recently visited Castro’s Cuba and predictably came back with rave reviews of the Potemkin village.

Rubio dismantled Harkin’s rosy assessment of the hemisphere’s longest-running and bloodiest dictatorship. Many observers described it as Rubio’s finest demonstration of his oratory skills, and a speech that might put him back in the good graces of the conservative Republican base.

Marco Rubio has touched the third rail of conservative politics — immigration reform. He was the most visible of a group of Republicans that attempted to forge a compromise to help solve the problem of the estimated 12 million illegal aliens living within our borders. The issue is so toxic within the Republican Party that many simply wrote Rubio off despite the fact that the initiative didn’t go anywhere.

I never thought I’d see the day when a Republican would have to rehabilitate his conservative image after committing the sin of agreeing with the likes of Jack Kemp, Bill Kristol, Lawrence Kudlow, and Steve Forbes, not to mention Ronald Reagan. But that day has indeed arrived, much to my befuddlement.

The first time I saw Marco Rubio speak, it was in 2007 at a town hall meeting in Miami’s Coconut Grove neighborhood. At the time, he was Florida’s House speaker. His topic was reforming Florida’s backward property tax laws; Rubio was for scrapping the property tax on residences altogether. I remember thinking that Rubio had the right idea — and a gift for communicating why it was the right idea. I began blogging about and supporting Rubio. He did get House passage of his property tax proposal, however it was a no-go in the Senate. But he was making the right kind of waves.

In May 2008, Rubio upstaged the eventual Democratic nominee for president, Senator Barack Obama, at a Cuban American National Foundation luncheon with a rousing speech. He proclaimed: “There’s no statute of limitation on freedom.”

Even as speaker of the state House of Representatives, Rubio’s profile was relatively low. When he decided to throw his hat into the ring for Florida’s vacant Senate seat in 2010 — challenging the then-popular Republican Governor Charlie Crist — many observers thought his campaign was dead on arrival. But Rubio ran a brilliant insurgent campaign, and by the time all was said and done Crist had self-immolated and was without a job. Rubio had ridden the Tea Party wave into the U.S. Senate, and chased Crist from the Party in the process. When Floridians next cast their gaze on Charlie Crist, he was chasing ambulances.

I was fortunate enough to be Senator Rubio’s guest in the Senate gallery for his maiden speech. On that occasion, Rubio outlined his vision for a second American century, a vision that presented a stark contrast to Obama’s vision. Rubio’s star was still rising.

In 2012, Rubio was given a prime speaking spot at the Republican convention. In February 2013, Rubio gave the Republican response to President Obama’s State of the Union speech (and took the gulp heard round the world). As ridiculous as “the Poland Spring Affair” was, it coincided with the beginning of Rubio’s slide into disfavor. His substantive trouble came as he took it upon himself to outline what he labeled “conservative” principles for immigration reform. Initially there was some enthusiasm for his ideas, but as the year wore on and a bill came closer to reality, vocal conservatives intensified their rhetoric, labeling Rubio a traitor for having betrayed conservatism itself.

I was puzzled and a little angry about the reaction among some conservatives, with whom I see eye-to-eye on virtually everything.

I had been advocating for immigration reform for years, trying to allay fears and dispel myths about the largely Hispanic illegal aliens living in America. It’s not that I have a soft spot for these law-breakers (as we’re always reminded, never mind that entering the country illegally is classified as an administrative violation), it’s that I see immigration as an economic issue, and my supply-side economics background gives me a more libertarian view of it. Reason makes the libertarian argument for immigration reform brilliantly.

It doesn’t take a genius to understand that Republicans of both the conservative and libertarian variety need to coexist in order for the party to have a viable future. In fact, on many issues the libertarian wing is taking the lead. Insofar as the Tea Party is about smaller government, lower taxes, less debt, and more personal freedom, it’s operating in deeply libertarian territory. But somehow Rubio’s intent is a sin so unforgivable that many had written him off as just another RINO in the mold of John McCain and Lindsey Graham.

It should be noted that in 2013, the same year he took up the issue of immigration reform, raising the hackles of some conservatives, Marco Rubio scored a 96 on the American Conservative Union’s ratings, following up on a perfect 100 in 2012 and 2011. National Journal has Rubio rated as the 17th most conservative Republican in the Senate. Notably, the libertarian-leaning Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, who many see as a 2016 contender, is 19th.

Senator Paul espouses some views that I’d argue are just as qualitatively at odds with conservatism, if not more so, than Rubio’s views on immigration. For example, in the arena of foreign policy Paul is decidedly a non-interventionist. Still, I like Rand Paul and would vote for him in a New York minute if he were to be the Republican nominee in 2016.

I wonder when immigration reform became the litmus test on conservatism. Who made it that way? I wonder how a guy whom conservatives agree with on almost every single issue can be discarded at the drop of a hat because he differs with them on one — one which is way down the list of most voters’ priorities.

You’ve got to believe that eventually the millions of illegal aliens in the U.S. will be given legal status. And it would be foolhardy for the Republican Party to appear to be a group of nativists. One of the greatest rebuttals to liberalism is that it was largely the Democrats who opposed civil rights legislation in the 1960s. If not for Republicans, who were in the minority at the time, those laws would have never passed. Today blacks are overwhelmingly Democrats, but that doesn’t invalidate the rightness of the civil rights legislation itself. We need to have a real debate about how best to spread conservatism among minorities, but that’s a separate issue.

As the GOP prepares to possibly regain control of the Senate and to extend its majority in the House, the party has a golden opportunity to dictate the terms under which these illegals pass from the darkness of the underground economy into the light of legal status for the benefit of all Americans. But even if immigration reform isn’t passed in the near future, we should stop using this as a wedge issue on ourselves.

Henry Louis Gomez is Cuban-American and blogs at

Comments are closed.

Top Rated Comments   
This is so intellectually dishonest about the opposition to “immigration reform” that I had to double check the byline – I assumed it was written by Jennifer Rubin.

1. Rubio gets more flack than other “reform” proponents because he did a complete and startling flip on the issue – in record time – after getting elected. He was dishonest…maybe he can come back from that, and I rather hope he can since he is an otherwise impressive figure…but he was dishonest.

2. Many would be, well…not happy exactly…but grudgingly accepting of some kind of amnesty if we !FIRST! put in place measures to assure a reasonable reduction of new illegals. Border security, e-verify, etc. Proponents of “reform” consistently and dishonestly disregard this, gut any attempt to secure the border in advance of an amnesty, and then call their opponents nativists...
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
"And it would be foolhardy for the Republican Party to appear to be a group of nativists."

Group of nativists? So that's your "Bottom Line". And you are so sick, and filled with hate, you probably believe it. Should have seen it coming. Your name calling is pathetic and so are you. You are no better than Al Sharpton. The same sick show just under a different tent. You are actually worse as he doesn't try to pretend he's looking out for America. When Rubio was wearing his false face and saying he was against amnesty, did you call him a "naivist"?

PJM had better hope it's other writters are not judged by you.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
Talk is cheap.

Pandering is cheaper.

It is extraordinary to me that anyone has the shamelessness to put their name to this sort of nonsense.

Marco Rubio is an adult whose lack of accomplishment and shady behavior finally caught up to a deceptive public image crafted by the likes of Al Cardenas, who has shamed conservatism twice: once by participating in an ugly lie, and again by insulting the millions of decent American workers he's throwing under a bus.

Rubio lied to get elected. He lied on tape, luckily for us, and that lie needs to be discussed here, rather than excited anecdotes and veiled slurs towards people who disagree with the CATO shilling on amnesty for illegal immigrants.

Rubio had to record his alleged no-amnesty promise during his senate race because he had previously used his bought position as speaker of the Florida House to table legislation designed to protect citizen workers and taxpayers in Florida. In order to get elected, he pledged, on the record, to not support amnesty. He lied to get elected, which wasn't very surprising, given his record overseeing a very corrupt inner circle in Tallahassee.

Now people like Mr. Gomez hope we are stupid enough that the clock has run out on our reaction to this lie, so Rubio is once again being paraded around and over-praised for spouting some more obvious policy babble. Does nothing embarrass you? The articulate wonder-boy routine won't work this time.

Marco Rubio is a two-bit crook of the weakest type -- an identity-politics affirmative action empty suit who subsisted on set-aside taxpayer-funded jobs provided by Miami's well-connected political set. He has shamed even the political operatives class, and so people like Mr. Gomez are left with nothing but the racism card to play to burnish this -- well, I won't state any more of the obvious.

Does PJ Media really think this little of its readers? Most of us in the Florida Tea Party regret trusting the likes of Rubio: we are offended by his lies and insulted by the accusatory race pandering and feigned "puzzlement" fired at us here. I choose to judge Marco Rubio based on his performance and actions, not his identity. I'm not "afraid" of foreigners, Mr. Gomez: I oppose amnesty for illegal immigrants.

Accusations of racism are the new racism, pal, all disrespect right back at you.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (90)
All Comments   (90)
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Please answer this question Rube -- why do we need immigrants? Aren't those people living on land in another place? Importing more Indian doctors isn't going to fix the problem created by Obamacare. That will never be fixed. His rating on the Heritage Scorecard dropped from about 99% conservative to 87%. That is the result of his voting or endorsing legislation -- not what he has advocated.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
Mr. Gomez: I am also an American of Cuban descent who once supported Marco Rubio for the Senate, and became highly disappointed at him for his work on Immigration legislation. No, Senator Marco Rubio cannot be resurrected. You mentioned that Rubio is a solid conservative and that we, conservatives, only disagree with him on only one issue-------but that is a major issue of great importance to the survival of our country as a capitalist, free, and law abiding constitutional democracy. Those illegal aliens he wishes to legitimize and grant them citizenship have a very different view of government, entitlements, and political philosophy. They belong to leftist groups like La Raza which has nothing in common with Cuban Americans and most legal Hispanics who considered themselves conservative Americans. Our country has no need of more low information voters to become citizens. The Democrats want their votes in exchange for benefits paid for by taxpayers. The Republicans just want to please the Chamber of Commerce and big business that wants cheap labor and sends large contributions to the RNC. Marco Rubio has no one to blame for his fall in approval ratings but himself. Marco Rubio sold us out in exchange for becoming the poster boy for the establishment GOP (like Jeb Bush who helped him get elected Senator). Marco Rubio sold out his constituents for the GOP promise to support his candidacy for President in 2016. The problem with Marco Rubio has always been his obsessive ambition while still acting as an adolescent. He just couldn't wait to grow into becoming a good Senator and learning about legislation and governing. His ambition has been his downfall. We, conservative American citizens in Florida, will never forget that Marco Rubio betrayed us; he chose to work with liberal thugs like Schumer and trusted a Marxist President; he didn't listen to his constituents; he worked with La Raza; and he lied to the American people. Marco Rubio would be very lucky if he can get re-elected Senator. His dream of becoming the first Hispanic President will continue to be just a dream.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
Nah, Rubio's done. No room in the currently optimistic picture for a Rino carpetbagger.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
Dear Henry Gomez,

While I was reading your article that tries desperately to sell Rubio to the readers of this site I couldn't wait to read the comments.

I knew that you, Rubio and your article would be trashed over and over again. It has been a lot of fun reading all the comments.

You must have known what sort of reaction your little article would cause, yet you wrote it anyway.

For political smarts I have to give you a zero.
But for sheer guts I give you 99%.

If you write an article defending this article, I'll raise your grade to 100.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
Yes, Rubio is brilliant and if it weren't for that "one small imperfection, he would be perfect"- the imperfection of amnesty will stick to him much longer than back hair and for America, it will make all the difference.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
All I want to know is, what is wrong with being a nativist?
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
If I am not for for me, what am I?

If not now, when?
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
Rubio's consistently deceitful behavior last year on the immigration issue has been painstakingly documented by Mickey Kaus: Rubio needs to regain the trust of moderates and conservatives on this issue if he has hopes of higher office.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
No. Rubio damaged himself badly by listening to the White Hairs instead of the voters who put him in the Senate.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
Rubio is done except as a U.S. Senator ...
There are "life defining//determining moments".
He has had his.
The up side is that now everyone, remotely him, knows it.
Now - -
Time to find some real, trustworthy conservative leaders out of this mess.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
Marco Rubio running for Senate in 2010.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
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