The key subplot to Rubio’s immigration push, of course, is how much of a headache it’ll be for him with conservatives in the 2016 primaries. The talk-radio charm offensive is mainly designed to get grassroots opinion-shapers like Rush to at least wait and see what the bill looks like before lobbying against it, but more broadly it’s designed to move the Overton window on what positions are acceptable for a good conservative to hold. Rubio can afford to have immigration reform fail; he can’t afford to be RINO-ized over it. Like I said yesterday, whether or not a bill ends up passing, he’s already achieved something significant by getting Rush et al. to acknowledge that “recognizing reality” in terms of a grand bargain on immigration is something “admirable and noteworthy.” No matter what happens now, unless he ends up voting for a watered-down Democratic bill with token enforcement (which he won’t), he’s got that as a soundbite for his primary ads in 2016. James Antle makes a good point too in noting that none of Rubio’s would-be rivals for the nomination have attacked him on this yet. Jindal, Paul, and Christie have all kept quiet and Ryan has actually endorsed Rubio’s plan. The likely candidates don’t want to alienate Latino voters and the pundits with big audiences don’t want to kneecap a guy who might end up being the party’s best chance to regain the presidency.
So how’s all of this playing with conservatives in the Senate and online? Is Rubiomania enough in itself to convince people to reserve judgment until the first draft bill hits the floor in March? Not yet:
“I love and respect Marco. I think he’s just amazingly naïve on this issue,” Vitter said. “This is the same old formula that we’ve dealt with before, including when it passed in 1986, and that is promises of enforcement and immediate amnesty. And of course, the promises of enforcement never materialize. The amnesty happens immediately — the millisecond the bill is signed into law, and the same is true here. No, they won’t be citizens immediately. They will be legal.”
“Citizenship is guaranteed at that point as a practical matter,” he added…
“Look, as soon as you give these people a legal status, to say that you’re going to reverse that is ridiculous,” Vitter said. “It’ll never happen. As soon as you give them a legal status, they are here legally forever and probably they’re citizens pretty darn soon after. And if Marco thinks no matter what happens or doesn’t happen on the enforcement side that’s not going to happen, I just think he’s nuts.”
Yeah, Rubio’s wisely focused on the enforcement provisions in his chats with conservative media but even if he gets Schumer et al. to bend a little on those — which I think they will, if only because enforcement can be eroded over time — he’s got the problem Vitter mentions of immediate probationary legal status for illegals who are already here. I don’t think Schumer will be as yielding about that. Neither does National Review, which opposes the bill in part on grounds that, let’s face it, there’s no way Democrats can be trusted on this issue:
[B]roader reform measures must wait until credible enforcement mechanisms are in place. Those mechanisms include, at a minimum, a physically secured border and mandatory universal use of the E-Verify system, which confirms the legal status of new hires. We agree with Senator Rubio’s view that “we can’t be the only nation in the world that does not enforce its immigration laws. . . . Modernization of the legal immigration system is impossible unless we first secure the border and implement an E-Verify system.” We very much doubt that Senator Rubio will achieve meaningful border security in cooperation with Senators Schumer, Durbin, Menendez, and Bennet. The less-of-the-same version being developed in the House with the support of John Boehner and Paul Ryan almost certainly will suffer from similar defects, since it appears to be based on the same premises…
Senator Rubio, an exemplary conservative leader, is correct that our immigration system is broken. And he is correct that, at some point, we are going to have to do something about the millions of illegals already here. But he is wrong about how to go about repairing our immigration system, and wrong to think that an amnesty-and-enforcement bill at this time will end up being anything other than the unbuttered side of a half-a-loaf deal. And there is no reason to make a bad deal for fear of losing a Latino vote Republicans never had.
If you believe, as NR does and as even some liberals acknowledge, that Latinos are likely to go on voting Democratic in the medium-term at least, then it’s perfectly rational for Democrats to go on trying to weaken border security measures in the drafting process and later, after something’s passed. (Passionate supporters of organized labor may disagree, natch.) Meanwhile, Newt Gingrich objects to the bill partly because he objects to the process:
Gingrich, who won applause for his piecemeal immigration reform package during the 2012 GOP presidential primaries, said he would not endorse the bipartisan immigration reform pushed by McCain and Rubio–and that is extremely similar to President Obama’s offering…
“Frankly, I’m pretty tired of a handful of people in Washington, starting with the president, meeting in secret meetings in closed rooms to cut giant deals to come out with a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ vote to then tell the rest of us that it will be a catastrophe if we vote ‘no.’ I think that’s really bad government and I don’t think it produces good ideas,” said Gingrich.
Read Erick Erickson and the boss emeritus for further objections. Conservatives on the Hill are evidently already worried about Rubio getting rolled by Schumer and hurting himself for 2016, but like I said, I think that’s overblown. If worse comes to worst and grassroots opinion turns decisively against the bill, Rubio will turn on it too. He’s already done most of the heavy lifting he needs to do on this issue by making himself a face of immigration reform, no matter what the eventual outcome. And no matter what you think of the bill, his media outreach effort is impressive. It’s not just Rush and Hannity he’s talking to; he came on Ed’s radio show the other day to speak directly to blog readers and he’s got an op-ed today at Red State responding to Erickson’s piece. If you think the GOP suffers from chronically poor messaging, as basically every conservative does, then take some comfort in the fact that this guy knows what he’s doing on that front even if you oppose his goal.
Here’s Coulter with Howie Carr, also in need of a lottttt of persuasion.