Rubio’s Immigration Tightrope

101009_GJ_MarcoRubio-24_t607

Senator Marco Rubio is playing a high risk game.

This past week, he came out in support of an immigration bill, whose contents were supported by a bipartisan group of Senators.  The much talked about plan would, generally, give a path to citizenship after placing those illegal aliens in the back of the line, and some theoretical, yet undetermined in specificity plan for border security.

The details of the above are immensely important, and we don’t know the details yet.  Both conservatives and liberals fret the outcome of the debate, and where the ultimate lines will be drawn.

However, the politics are fascinating.  Rubio has clearly emerged as one of the leading candidates to take the GOP helm in 2016.  There are a myriad of others, but Rubio is probably the best known and, at the current moment, best liked of the group.

And he picks this moment to confront, of all things, immigration.

It is a risky gambit, that has serious downside risk, and upside potential.  On the down side, if Rubio appears to be pandering to the left at all on securing the border (which is clearly job #1 for conservatives on the immigration issue), he loses almost all credibility as a conservative.  I believe that if you secure the border, the other issues could easily be dealt with.  However, is this plan which envisions a commission of border state governors necessitating authorization before a path to citizenship is available enough to convince the right that the border is secured?  I don’t think it goes far enough at all.  There is talk of expanding border patrol and drones, but the simple question is this:  will we deport all illegal aliens arrested after this deal is passed?  Anything short of that would not placate even moderate conservatives such as myself.

Rubio has been making the rounds this week.  On Sean Hannity on Monday, Rubio was defiant that this was the proper course for the country.  When pressed by Hannity on the idea that the 11 million (or more) people would be able to qualify for citizenship under the bill, which is by far the most controversial part of the proposed legislation, Rubio responded: “We’re not trying to punish anybody here. It’s not about that we’re angry at immigrants. It’s about the fact that we don’t want this to ever happen again and we don’t want to be unfair to the people that have done it in the right way.”

Rubio continued the conservative circuit, appearing on Rush Limbaugh’s show on Tuesday.  The audio is linked below.  Rush did seem at least open to Rubio’s proposals, if not enamoured by them.  It was certainly a strong showing for the Senator, as he again demonstrated why many conservatives believe he is the most eloquent voice in conservatism today. But will that last against a large conservative revolt, if it ultimately occurs?

As for the upside, I think it is much smaller than the the potential risks, frankly.  If Rubio does get passage of a reasonable immigration deal, does that give him more leeway among the mainstream media when 2016 arrives, ala John McCain?  I doubt it.  The media is the media, and should never be trusted.  As for the Hispanic vote, even with Rubio’s background and credentials, we know by polling analyses that Hispanics lean liberal.  What is the best case scenario for Rubio, getting 40% or so of the Hispanic vote?  And I am leery of even that estimate.

It is a high stakes gamble, with Rubio walking a tightrope that may be impossible to traverse.  If he fails to win the confidence of the Right, it may prematurely end his Presidential hopes.  On the other hand, if he is able to pull off some kind of victory, it will elevate him to the head of the class.  Political theater at its best.