Rubio's One-Man Offensive to Sell Immigration Bill to Conservatives

Rubio is part of what has been dubbed the Gang of Eight, a bipartisan group working to overhaul the nation’s immigration laws. The legislation, issued on April 16, permits undocumented immigrants who entered the U.S. before Dec. 31, 2011, and remained exclusively in country thereafter to apply for what is being called provisional legal status. That would allow them to remain and work in the U.S. although they would have to wait more than 10 years to attain full citizenship.

About 11 million undocumented immigrants live in the U.S.

The measure also spends billions of dollars strengthening border security, concentrating on what are considered high-traffic zones. But conservatives opposed to the bill, which is slated for initial consideration before the Senate Judiciary Committee on May 7, consider it an amnesty that violates conservative principles.

Rubio has expressed some qualms about the legislation, particularly the sections dealing with border security that he would like to see strengthened. Regardless, speaking to radio host Mike Gallagher on Tuesday, he acknowledged the Senate bill wouldn’t make it through the House in its current form, a factor that doesn’t faze him.

“The bill that’s in place right now probably can’t pass the House,” Rubio said. “It will have to be adjusted, because people are very suspicious about the willingness of the government to enforce the laws now.”

Despite the apparent political stumble, Rubio has a leg, albeit short leg, up on the rest of the 2016 GOP field, according to a recent poll. A Fairleigh Dickinson University poll released April 30 showed him attracting 18 percent of the Republican primary vote with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who also has attracted conservative thunder for praising President Obama’s reaction to Hurricane Sandy, coming in second with 16 percent. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush was third with 14 percent.

And while many conservatives have assumed a jaundiced view of Rubio, talk radio seemingly remains firmly in his corner despite claims by pollster Frank Luntz that several powerful hosts are “destroying” him. The big three – Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Mark Levin – continue to heap praise on Rubio throughout the debate while simultaneously raging against the immigration bill he’s championing.

Hannity, who follows only Limbaugh among talk show hosts, remains particularly effusive, telling Rubio during a May 1 appearance on his program, “I have faith in you. I think if you were in control…I’d trust you!”

“I’ve gotten to know you and your family and I hear your conservative message and I think you have all the right intentions,” Hannity said.

Limbaugh acknowledged that Rubio is “a little naïve on the immigration stuff” but characterized him as “a good person” on his April 30 show.

“The reason I say he's a force, there's no question this guy is one of the few real conservatives in elected office today, folks,” Limbaugh said. “There's no question about that.”