Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) on Sunday said that much of the Gang of Eight’s immigration reform bill was in “perfect shape,” but added he would insist on tougher border security measures.

Rubio, one of the authors of the bill, was asked if he still supported it on ABC’s “This Week.”

“I think it’s an excellent starting point, and I think 95, 96 percent of the bill is in perfect shape and ready to go. But there are elements that need to be improved. This is how the legislative process is supposed to work,” said Rubio.

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“[A] senior White House offcial insisted that Obama’s role in overseeing details of the bill has been more signifcant than is generally known. ‘No decisions are being made without talking to us about it,’ the official said of the Gang of Eight negotiations … ‘This does not fly if we’re not O.K. with it, because everyone knows this is going to pass with some Republicans but with a majority of Democrats, and it’s going to require even more Democrats in the House.’ … ‘We’re not worried about short-term political credit. We’ll get plenty of it if it gets signed,’ the official said, adding that the White House was willing to let Republicans like [Lindsey] Graham and [Marco] Rubio, who are regularly attacked by conservatives, have the political space they needed. … ‘We’re the hammer on the back end. If the Republicans try to scuttle it, we’re the ones who can communicate to the Latino community who scuttled it.’ …

‘There are American workers who, for lack of a better term, can’t cut it,’ a Rubio aide told me. ‘There shouldn’t be a presumption that every American worker is a star performer. There are people who just can’t get it, can’t do it, don’t want to do it. And so you can’t obviously discuss that publicly.’…

“Fox News has notably changed its tone since the election. … McCain told me, “Rupert Murdoch is a strong supporter of immigration reform, and Roger Ailes is, too.’ … McCain said that he, Graham, Rubio, and others also have talked privately to top hosts at Fox, including Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity, and Neil Cavuto, who are now relatively sympathetic to the Gang’s proposed bill.

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Rubio badly needs immigration reform to pass, having invested so much time and political stock in the bill’s passage and lacking a major legislative achievement. Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Mike Lee of Utah signaled this week that their votes are out of reach, leaving Paul as Rubio’s best hope for a prominent tea party wingman.

Paul’s nod could boost the bill in the Senate and perhaps more importantly, give it some juice in the tea party-dominated House. “It’s not just Rand’s vote that Rubio needs but the people who will come along with him,” said Doug Stafford, a top Paul adviser. Paul’s support for immigration reform could also offer Rubio political cover in amnesty-wary, conservative corners if he runs for president.

For his part, Paul is trying to prove he can appeal to the growing minority share of the electorate in the wake of 2012 nominee Mitt Romney’s disastrous showing among Hispanic and African-American voters. If an immigration bill passes without Paul on board, he could appear to be left behind instead of leading.

“Rand doesn’t want to concede the general election audience and Rubio doesn’t want to concede the conservative audience,” said Marshall Fitz, director of immigration policy at the Center for American Progress. “It’s like mime theater in which they are playing off each other. It’s like shadow boxing.”

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When the bill passes the Senate it will put enormous pressure — more than most now realize — on House Republicans. Speaker John A. Boehner, Mr. Ryan and possibly the House whip, Kevin McCarthy, whose California district is one-third Hispanic, want to pass legislation that is acceptable to the Hispanic community. A large majority of the House Republican caucus does not.

Conservatives insist on applying the so-called Hastert rule, which allows consideration only of bills that have a majority of the Republican caucus.

If this is irreconcilable, here is a prediction, based more on instinct than reporting: Mr. Boehner, if necessary, will sacrifice his speakership rather than be party to the death of the immigration overhaul. He realizes that, even though it may not much affect congressional elections next year, his party cannot continue to lose 70 percent of the Hispanic vote and be competitive nationally.

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Gang of Eight member Bob Menendez advised Republicans to accept legalization status for current illegal immigrants if they ever want to see another president from their party.

“I would tell my Republican colleagues — both in the House and the Senate — that the road to the White House comes through a road with a pathway to legalization,” the New Jersey senator said on State of the Union this morning. “Without it, there’ll never be a road to the White House for the Republican party.”

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Via the Corner.

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“The question of border security is now tangled up with the IRS and the Justice Department and the general, pervasive distrust of the executive branch,” he explained. “Because, what the bill says is, ‘The executive branch will certify if the border is secure.’ I don’t believe that the Republicans in Congress are going to take that.”

“They’re going to vote for a bill — or against a bill — whether or not it has ‘Congress shall certify,’ not the executive branch, because no one trusts the executive branch anymore,” he said

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“I don’t focus a lot on public polling, but if you look at these public polls, it’s clear the vast majority of Americans understand that what we have in place in this country is de facto amnesty, a broken legal immigration system that needs to be reformed,” he said.

That came after Rubio had already offered an even more dismissive answer to host Jon Karl, who asked “Are you being played by the Democrats? Is Chuck Schumer playing you, is essentially the charge?”

Rubio’s answer: “I don’t — I quite frankly, I don’t even know what that means.”