WASHINGTON (News-Press) -- After spending the spring selling a
bill that would give 11 million people here illegally a path to
citizenship, Republican Marco Rubio has veered back to the right.
Florida's junior senator blasted President Barack Obama for his
"job-killing" environmental agenda, threatened to vote against any
spending bill that doesn't defund Obama's sweeping health care law, and
is considering lead sponsorship of a bill banning most abortions beyond
conservatives say it's not enough to erase doubts the potential 2016
presidential candidate sowed with his willingness to grant what they
call "amnesty" to those illegally in the country.
happened with immigration is something that will haunt him," said Jenny
Beth Martin, co-founder of Tea Party Patriots. "People across the
country and in Florida are disgusted with what he did in the amnesty
bill. ... He could have stood for the rule of law."
not clear what sort of lasting damage the immigration issue might
inflict on a dynamic politician who's often been described as a tea
some tea party activists in Florida are so angry with him, they're
exploring finding a candidate to challenge Rubio in the GOP primary if
he seeks re-election in 2016, said Cindy Lucas, a tea party organizer in
people have talked to potential candidates. I myself have reached out.
I'm not getting 'no.' I'm getting 'maybe,'" she said. "It's a little way
out there. Maybe people want to see what Sen. Rubio can do to redeem
himself. I think he's been trying to do that in the last two weeks."
congressional candidate Byron Donalds, of the Naples Tea Party's
leadership council, said Rubio was no longer the politician who lingers
in tea party members' minds.
lot of people are not happy with his involvement in the immigration
bill," the Collier County resident said. "It won't solve the problem,
only exacerbate it."
the immigration bill on conservative radio shows and in front of
Republican groups earlier this year, Rubio defended the measure as
necessary to fix a "broken" system that's allowed millions of immigrants
to enter illegally or overstay their visas.
The legislation would spend more than $40 billion to build more
fencing along the U.S.-Mexico border and add more than 20,000 border
agents. It would revamp the nation's visa program and beef up workplace
verification to make sure jobs are held by legal residents.
the same time, it would create a process to allow immigrants in the
country illegally to become citizens within 13 years, provided they meet
has known the bill might alienate some conservatives. But he told
reporters in April the problem was too big to ignore any longer.
don't want to be part of a bill that 10 years from now people point to
as an example of a mistake. I want to make sure we do this the right way
and what we have crafted is a starting point," he said. "I hope
sincerely that those who have problems with it don't just offer
objections but offer solutions because to say that we don't have a
problem is not a realistic position."
Senate bill passed overwhelmingly last month and Rubio, one of a Gang
of Eight bipartisan senators who crafted the legislation, got much of
the credit (or blame) for the result. GOP leaders in the House have said
they won't take it up, and Rubio has not joined other members of the
"Gang of Eight" to pressure the House into action.
think he's working hard" to sell the bill, countered Arizona GOP Sen.
John McCain, one of the bill's cosponsors. "He's been fine in my view."
with the Tea Party Patriots, said straw polling by the organization's
PAC shows Rubio's popularity falling sharply since the Senate passed the
he was consistently rated among the top three potential GOP candidates
in the 2016 presidential field, getting about 18-20 percent, she said.
The latest straw polls show him garnering no more than 5 percent.
"He's near the bottom." she said.
That decline mirrors results in other recent surveys of GOP voters.
those reservations, Rubio has done well on the political money trail.
His PAC reported raising more than $3 million in the three months ended
June 30 - the best ever for his committee, according to consultant Todd
But it might be more difficult to raise money from conservatives going forward.
VanderPlaats, who heads The Family Leader, a socially conservative
organization in Iowa, likes Rubio's views on families and marriage but
shares Gatti's disappointment over his role on immigration.
wasn't just that Rubio advocated amnesty, VanderPlaats said, but who he
was advocating it with on Capitol Hill: McCain, Sen. Charles Schumer,
D-N.Y., and Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill.
never think anything's a fatal blow but what got him elected was (the
idea) that he wasn't going to be politics as usual," he said. "Then when
they saw him in the group with Schumer and McCain, right away they
said, 'We sent you there to lead, not to join.' "
said Rubio should "grab hold of the microphone" and explain his
rationale for the bill, especially in Iowa, which conducts the nation's
first presidential caucuses.
will be difficult" to recover, he said. But "what we've seen before is
that Iowans, Americans, voters, we're a very forgiving lot."