As it turned out, a comprehensive proposal was something of a “line in the sand” for Senator Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) and his Democratic colleagues as well as for President Obama. So Rubio chose to give ground not only on his border-security-first position, but also on his preference for a step-by-step approach. “That’s not the direction the Senate was headed,” he told CNN’s Candy Crowley in April when asked about critics such as Senator Mike Lee (R., Utah) who were calling for a series of individual immigration bills. “So I made a decision to try to influence the direction we were headed.”

Rubio argued that the Gang of Eight had managed to keep the various aspects of immigration reform “separate from each other” during negotiations so that the end product would be “defensible.” He vowed that he would try to persuade conservatives that “leaving things the way they are now is much worse than approaching it the way we’ve outlined.”

Despite his considerable efforts, the conservative base remained deeply skeptical, and Rubio began to adjust his message, emphasizing the need for increased border-security measures.