He’s got an immigration module too. It ignores Rubio’s “Gang of 8” amnesty push while adopting what seems to be an Enforcement First framework, in which “nothing” happens, amnesty-wise, until the border is “secure.” Everything depends on what “nothing” and “secure” mean, of course. But those crucial seams are effectively buried. Rubio prefaces all this with a digression on ISIS, and how it’s changed the immigration debate: Because our top priority has to be to “keep ISIS out of this country.” It’s an absurd, transparent attempt to put off confronting the Gang of 8 and the effects of a low-skilled influx on living standards. But the audience loves it. The ISIS digression gets the biggest applause of the day.
All of this is mildly terrifying. If Rubio’s a “robot,” as many have charged, he’s a sophisticated new model robot with simulated humanistic elements and a charm algorithm. And if he still seems insubstantial–which he does–it’s a higher level of insubstantial than you expect: You don’t get the impression he’s actually thought through these problems, but he knows his modules. He’s the ideal choice for Student Body President of America, the best band at Band Camp. And–as those who remember Gary Hart’s 1984 post-Iowa surge know–that may be good enough for Rubio to do very, very, well in New Hampshire, unless someone rudely interrupts him.
Why isn’t that someone Trump? Trump’s been attacking Ted Cruz lately, and leaving Rubio alone. Why? Cruz isn’t going to win New Hampshire. Rubio has a chance–certainly a chance to come so close he’s proclaimed the winner by the press. And Cruz isn’t going to destroy the nascent, effective populist insurgency that anti-amnesty activists and trade skeptics, led by Sen. Jeff Sessions, have built over the past three year–and that Trump is demonstrating has substantial, intense support among voters of both parties. Rubio will. Electing Rubio, after killing the Gang of 8 bill, is like marching against the Vietnam War in the 60s and winding up with Richard Nixon running things.