By Alvaro F. Fernandez
Sen. Marco Rubio finds himself between the proverbial rock and hard place these days – especially in his home state of Florida. The Senate is about to present its more than 1,000 page comprehensive immigration bill this week. And Rubio has been dubbed its “face.” He serves as a member of the bipartisan Gang of 8 created to produce the long awaited legislation.
But it wasn’t supposed to be that way, say members of the Florida tea party. Rubio was first elected to the U.S. senate in a surprise victory in 2010 over then governor Charlie Crist. He was swept in by a blossoming tea party movement who loved the fact that as speaker of the Florida House of Representatives Rubio looked kindly (at the time) at the Arizona law that excoriated immigrants (especially from the south) and their path to citizenship in this country.
“We have some disagreements over our definition of amnesty,” Jim McGovern, an organizer with the Martin County 9/12 Tea Party Committee, told a Tampa Bay Times reporter, as tea party members protested outside Rubio’s central Florida office.
If nothing else, Rubio has shown a propensity and talent to stand on both sides of issues that might get him elected to public office. But might immigration be his Waterloo?
Pundits tell us that Rubio is positioning himself for a run at the presidency in 2016. Therefore his recent tack towards the center. The burgeoning Hispanic vote – as demonstrated by both Obama victories – is key to his success.
Others, though, are questioning if Rubio can balance his base of tea party haters, while at the same time courting Hispanics. And at this point, Hispanic leaders question whether Latinos will soon forget Rubio’s dally with tea partiers and the Arizona law.
Interestingly, Rubio’s rapid rise to national fame has also affected his popularity at home. And if he is to win the presidency, he must win Florida first.
So it’s obvious that his recent turn to the middle has put him on a slippery slope. One that if not managed correctly, can affect Rubio’s 2016 chances at the presidency – and even his reelection to the U.S. Senate (which also comes up in 2016), if the top spot doesn’t quite work out.