Jonathan Strong reviews the changes in Marco Rubio’s immigration position between his 2010 campaign and now:
Speaking of Rubio’s new stance on immigration, the aide adds: “I honestly don’t know how to explain it. I’ve never seen anybody so passionately argue against amnesty and then completely flip in two years. It’s just mind-boggling.”
It’s not that mystifying. Rubio sought to play the conservative insurgent in 2010, and to that end he attacked Crist on immigration in a way that would appeal to conservative voters. As his previous record should have told everyone, Rubio was never the insurgent type of politician that he pretended to be, and as a protege of Jeb Bush it would have been extraordinary if he didn’t end up advocating for some form of amnesty once he was in the Senate. His early career in the Senate happened to coincide with post-2012 Republican angst about their weak support from Hispanic voters, and from the very beginning of his term he has been held up by people across the spectrum as the embodiment of the GOP’s remedy to this weakness. The fantasy that Rubio could significantly improve the party’s standing with Hispanic voters has been fueled in part by Rubio’s biography, but it has also been encouraged by the assumption that supporting bad immigration legislation is the key to future Republican political success. It’s almost impossible to separate the Republican elite enthusiasm for Rubio from the delusion that amnesty is a vote-winner for Republicans, because both are based on very similar assumptions that immigration is the main or perhaps the only obstacle to increased Hispanic support for the GOP and that Hispanic voters as “natural” conservatives should like the rest of the party’s agenda. Rubio may genuinely share these assumptions, or perhaps he is simply responding to the political incentives that have been created for him. Whatever the case, it shouldn’t be the least bit surprising that Rubio abandoned his earlier position for the one he now holds.