“You know the media and the party — everyone is looking at this lifeboat with Marco written on the side of it and everyone wants to jump in,” said GOP political strategist Alex Castellanos. “We better be careful or we’re gonna sink it. We’re going to take one of our greatest assets and pigeonhole and typecast him. We need to move the conversation to the next generation, and he’s one of the people who understand that we have to be the party of hope.”…

“This is a very, very dangerous area for Rubio if he has national aspirations,” said Roy Beck, head of the anti-immigration group Numbers USA. “You’ve had Republicans trying to do this in the past that really lost their status in the party once they did it.”

Rubio also has a potential problem inside the Senate. Two of the top Senate Republicans — Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and John Cornyn of Texas — are up for reelection in 2014 and have to be worried about a tea party primary challenge if they fire up the base on immigration.

In an interview with POLITICO last summer, Rubio made clear that he would like to move past immigration reform so that he can relay a broader message to the Latino community about his party. “If we could just get past that gateway issue of immigration policy and what it means about us as Republicans, I think we have a very compelling story to tell about how our economic policies are better for the Hispanic community than the Democrats’ economic policies,” he said.