Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), the ringleader of the gang, told us in an interview that he and Rubio talk frequently about the details on their cellphones, often more than once a day. Schumer has not become chummy with Rubio, but has been impressed by his mastery of the nuances of the policy. “He’s very fact-based, and he’s gotten his way a good percentage of the time,” Schumer said. “He’s persuaded people to his point of view a good part of the time. He comes prepared with facts, and if he doesn’t know something, he’ll ask the staff in the room. He’s not afraid to admit what he doesn’t know.”

Three people who have discussed the matter with Rubio say the Florida senator is more willing than people think to pull the plug if it looks like conservative resistance is too strong. In particular, Rubio’s inner circle is concerned about the high-profile roles of Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham, both of whom are Republicans that many conservatives distrust.

“John and Lindsey will have to understand this is something bigger than themselves,” said a senior Republican strategist. “They could be the ones that end up sinking this thing, because the right wing hated the last one so much.”…

Either way, in the end, Rubio’s view has evolved from believing that he needed passage in order to be able to display a substantive accomplishment, to believing he will get credit for trying so aggressively. “What matters is the fight,” one top Republican strategist told us.