This year, Rubio did something similar. He surged by borrowing Trump’s message while pledging to more effectively package it. In the final weeks before Iowa, Rubio grew markedly more anti-immigration. Having previously warned against using terrorism as a pretext to restrict legal immigration, the Florida senator in mid-January declared that because of the rise of ISIS, “the entire system of legal immigration must now be reexamined for security first and foremost.” He also followed Trump’s lead on trade, suggesting that he might oppose the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement he had once praised.
Rubio echoed Trump when it came to the rights of Muslims, too. Asked in a January debate about Trump’s call for banning Muslim immigration, Rubio praised the billionaire for having “tapped in to some of that anger that’s out there about this whole issue because this president has consistently underestimated the threat of ISIS.” Then, after talking about how awful ISIS is, Rubio declared that, “When I’m president. If we do not know who you are, and we do not know why you are coming when I am president, you are not getting into the United States of America.” The listener who didn’t already know Rubio’s position might well have thought he supports Trump’s plan. When asked about Trump’s call for closing mosques, Rubio did Trump one better, declaring that, “It’s not about closing down mosques. It’s about closing down any place—whether it’s a cafe, a diner, an Internet site—any place where radicals are being inspired.”
Rubio also began hinting that President Obama was a kind of traitor. “Barack Obama,” he warned darkly, “has deliberately weakened America.”