Chris Cillizza tries to make the case that Rubio has emerged from the immigration debate a political winner. Here he makes a strained comparison with Romney:
Politicians who have failed to sell an issue position where they stand apart from their party almost always fail because they come across as inauthentic. (See: Romney, Mitt.) Principled opposition can be sold — as long as it is genuinely principled.
This is a reminder that the Rubio-Romney comparison doesn’t work very well. Romney was perceived as inauthentic because he was willing to say anything, no matter how incompatible with his governing record or previous views, in order to win the Republican nomination. Rubio’s position on immigration may very well be his real view, but he didn’t campaign on this position and condemned his election opponent for holding the view that he now professes. I don’t know if Rubio’s current position is a “principled” one or not, but the fact is that he has tried to have it both ways on the same issue in just a few years. Romney was a serial panderer who desperately wanted conservatives to approve of him. Rubio is using his reservoir of conservative goodwill to abandon the position they thought he held in order to promote legislation that most of them loathe to one degree or another. This is the opposite of what Romney did on the national stage, which is why it seems likely that Rubio’s support for the immigration bill will come back to haunt him.
Considering the role that Crist’s support for the stimulus bill in 2009 played in his primary defeat at Rubio’s hands, it is hard to overlook the fact that Rubio is playing a much more pivotal role in helping to advance a major item on the Obama administration’s domestic agenda than Crist ever did. Put another way, Rubio wouldn’t be in the Senate today if it had not been for Republicans’ extremely negative reaction to Crist’s much less consequential support for part of Obama’s agenda. At this point, Rubio has to hope that the House can’t pass a bill so that his role in promoting the legislation can begin to fade from memory.