After relentlessly defending for months the Senate’s ambitious overhaul of the nation’s immigration laws, Sen. Marco Rubio didn’t respond when House GOP leaders last week trashed it as a “flawed … massive, Obama-care like bill.”

The Florida Republican’s office, which churned out countless press releases touting his interviews and speeches about the legislation, hasn’t said a word about immigration since the Senate passed the bill on June 27…

By stepping back from the limelight, Rubio is acknowledging the limits of his own powers of persuasion as well as political realities.

The very issue Rubio (and Harris) thought would be a game-changing, legacy-builder looks like a big liability for the Florida senator, at least right now. In the process, the self-confident presidential hopeful suddenly looks wobbly, even a little weak, as he searches for what’s next.

Rubio spent six months working over Senate Republicans only to get stiffed by 70 percent of them. He has gone underground on the issue ever since, ducking reporters on Capitol Hill…

Rubio appears to have miscalculated how much Republican support he could win in the Senate – and how much conservative backlash he could avoid outside of it. And now he feels stuck

All of this leaves the senator in the position of looking like an outlier, not a leader – not the place a guy with big ambitions wants to be.

The lesson, of course, is that there are far greater rewards in moving with the herd than in trying to change its direction, even if its direction leads over a cliff. While Rubio was working to accomplish something difficult — to improve the status quo — most of his likely rivals for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination offered no constructive proposals. And if immigration reform dies, the do-nothings will be the ones feted (and not only by Politico) for their political savvy.

Rubio is young and talented. Too bad he made the rookie mistake of trying.

First, we have the idea that “showing political strength” by pissing off the right wing gives one a certain gravitas. And then we have the need to not look like a policy “chump.” Call me crazy, but I do not think these are the two things one needs to win a Republican primary. What were Obama’s big policy achievements again? Romney even won his nomination by disowning his biggest policy victory. And pissing off the right is not going to get him his primary funding, especially in the age of super PACs.

But the crucial point isn’t that these moves are irrational. Rather, it’s that Rubio may very well have believed they were rational.

Although it is still early in the process, some conservative pundits and “tea party” activists already are writing off Rubio, R-Fla., because of his role in crafting the bipartisan “Gang of Eight” bill that the Senate passed June 27 on a 68-32 vote.

“I think it’s just foolish,” McCain, R-Ariz., told The Arizona Republic on Friday. “I’m not endorsing anyone, but I can tell you Marco Rubio is an articulate spokesperson for what conservatives believe in, in principle. And if we pass immigration reform, which is certainly not clear, he would get enormous credit for it.”…

“We tried very hard (to pass immigration reform in 2007), and we failed, and I was still able to get the nomination,” McCain said…

“I think he has helped his chances immeasurably by being involved in the immigration debate,” Flake said of Rubio. “In the end, Republicans are going to want to win in the general election, and I think they will recognize that we’ve got to have somebody who can do that.”

Now that it’s clear that the base of the GOP – as expressed in the House GOP’s diehard desire to kill reform – is emphatically not on board with the Senate immigration bill to which he tied his fate, his whole plan for the 2016 run is basically in a shambles and his support among conservatives is falling rapidly…

If you’ve watched over recent weeks, Rubio has been casting around for basically any right wing position to grab on to. First, there was his quixotic demand to shut down the government if Obamacare isn’t defunded. Then yesterday he tried to filibuster the Perez nomination even after the Senate nuclear option deal. And there have been various other examples. But as Dave Weigel aptly notes, now every desperate lurch right looks self-serving, cynical and well … desperate.

So now Rubio seems trapped, on the wrong side of his party’s base on a key issue – and one that looks unlikely even to deliver legislation that might have bipartisanship traction with middle-ground voters. It’s one thing to say ‘I bucked my party to bring change the country needs’, another to say ‘I bucked my party on change my country needs but it actually didn’t pan out. Sorry.’

[B]oth McCain and Romney had two resources that enabled them to overcome weak fields in a context where opponents were killing each other off demolition-derby style: high name ID and a willingness to repudiate much of their own past records to build trust among movement conservatives. McCain also had a very positive personal “story” and Romney had endless sums of money…

Having been snookered and maneuvered into nominating candidates they didn’t much trust or like for two consecutive cycles, conservative activists are probably going to be a lot more careful in 2016 about picking their champions and splitting their votes. For a guy like Marco Rubio, that means he has a very small margin of error in dealing with “the base.” Perhaps following up his immigration reform number with a long series of base-pleasing positions will rehabilitate him enough to pass the smell test in Iowa and elsewhere; perhaps Josh is right and Marco’s will smell fishier every day. But unlike McCain in 2008 and Romney in 2012, Rubio (or for that matter, any other “elite” favorite, like, say, Chris Chritie) can’t count on a scattered and erratic field of rivals who keep running into each other’s clown cars, or a “base” that can’t make up its mind what it wants.

Here’s my guess: he’s toast for 2016, but might make a comeback later. He’s pretty young, after all. The specific question that Josh and Ed are tossing around, though, is this: how can we say that Rubio is doomed just because he’s pissed off the base over immigration reform? After all, the last two Republican nominees had big base problems too…

Rubio’s problem is that, immigration aside, he’s very clearly a creature of the tea party. If he runs, he’s going to be one of the guys competing like a pit bull for the 40 percent of the base they represent. But with immigration working against him, he has no chance of coming out on top. In a nutshell, he’s dead to the tea partiers and he’s too rabidly right-wing to make a play for the center. For now, he’s got nothing.

That could all change in the future, and frankly I think he’d be smart to regroup and think about 2020 or 2024. But this is why Rubio is toast for now. Immigration was his ticket to a share of the moderate vote, and that’s now looking like a bad bet.

[I]t’s just far too soon to know what effect support for a comprehensive bill will do to Rubio’s chances. Again, even assuming nothing passes, there’s no guarantee that immigration will be an effective issue in Iowa and New Hampshire, or even in the invisible primary in the months leading up to those events. There’s just so much we don’t know — will the economy thrive, or collapse? Will wars break out? What new issues will emerge? What new stars will emerge in the party, and who will they endorse?

Marshall believes that Rubio was something of a fluke candidate anyway, with immigration as his only real accomplishment. But that’s not true. Defeating then-RINO Charlie Crist, and then winning statewide in Florida, is Rubio’s real calling card. And that’s not going to go away.

Indeed, we don’t even yet know the outcome of the immigration fight in Congress. Even if you believe that no bill will emerge, it’s easy to imagine several different scenarios in how it dies — and not all of them leave Rubio equally estranged from anti-citizenship conservatives. It’s not altogether impossible, for example, that the House could pass something that they call comprehensive immigration (even without citizenship) and bring it to a conference committee, and that while the parties deadlock there Rubio becomes the champion of that “compromise.”

If Schumer-Rubio passes, Rubio will own every single tiny little amnesty implementation hiccup. E-verify fails? Blame Rubio. The wall hasn’t been started yet? Rubio’s fault. The amnesty itself is riven with obvious fraud. Rubio got rolled.

Another Rubio ally tells Politico, “If the bill fails, the only way Republicans could win the Hispanic vote in a national election would be with him on the ticket.”

This is much closer to the mark. Rubio’s best hope is that Schumer-Rubio dies a quick death in the House and is forgotten by Republican primary voters as quickly as possible. Rubio could then turn the tables on Democrats, blaming their insistence on creating entire new government agencies and slush funds for activist groups for getting in the way of immigration reform.

Fresh off a bruising immigration bill fight that cost him support among some on the Republican right, Sen. Marco Rubio is refocusing on bread-and-butter issues that play better with the GOP base: defunding President Obama’s health law, promoting pro-life policies and attacking the United Nations…

Mr. Rubio also on Wednesday helped lead the floor fight against Mr. Obama’s nominee to head the Labor Department, arguing that Thomas E. Perez is thumbing his nose at subpoenas from the House and must be blocked…

“I don’t think it’s necessary for him to strain any pander muscles to maintain his friendship with conservatives,” Mr Reed said. “He just needs to be himself and take the strong stands on issues he has throughout his career and he’ll be fine.”

Senator Marco Rubio says he supports Florida’s “stand your ground” law. The Florida Republican talked with reporters Friday about the law that’s been in the national spotlight during the George Zimmerman case.

Rubio said self-defense is a constitutional right.

“Every law is open for review, but I think we should be reminded that every American has a right to self-defense.”