Stop burying Marco Rubio

July 19, 2013

Josh Marshall writes that Marco Rubio is “the main political fatality” of immigration reform, which he pronounces to be dead. Ed Kilgore basically agrees. Kevin Drum is a little more flexible; he says Rubio is “toast for 2016, but might make a comeback later.”

C’mon, everyone: haven’t we just been through this? Do I really have to go dig out all the prognosticators who swore that Mitt Romney’s role inspiring Obamacare meant he had no chance in last year’s GOP primary? Or those certain that John McCain, who had managed to annoy half or more of the major Republican interest groups, was similarly done for by in 2007?

Beyond that, it’s just far too soon to know what effect support for a comprehensive bill will do to Rubio’s chances. Again, even assuming nothing passes, there’s no guarantee that immigration will be an effective issue in Iowa and New Hampshire, or even in the invisible primary in the months leading up to those events. There’s just so much we don’t know — will the economy thrive, or collapse? Will wars break out? What new issues will emerge? What new stars will emerge in the party, and who will they endorse?

Marshall believes that Rubio was something of a fluke candidate anyway, with immigration as his only real accomplishment. But that’s not true. Defeating then-RINO Charlie Crist, and then winning statewide in Florida, is Rubio’s real calling card. And that’s not going to go away.

Indeed, we don’t even yet know the outcome of the immigration fight in Congress. Even if you believe that no bill will emerge, it’s easy to imagine several different scenarios in how it dies — and not all of them leave Rubio equally estranged from anti-citizenship conservatives. It’s not altogether impossible, for example, that the House could pass something that they call comprehensive immigration (even without citizenship) and bring it to a conference committee, and that while the parties deadlock there Rubio becomes the champion of that “compromise.” That’s not my prediction — I remain skeptical that House Republicans can pass anything by themselves — but it’s certainly possible. And I still wouldn’t rule out the possibility that, at the end of the day, the House still passes a comprehensive bill with mostly Democratic votes.

Mind you, I’m not predicting a Rubio nomination. I have no idea which of the plausible nominees will wind up winning what may shape up as a very open contest. I’m just extremely skeptical that Rubio’s chances have ended with his support for comprehensive immigration reform. Until we see how immigration plays out, it’s just too soon to have any idea how it will effect the 2016 nomination battle.

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Greg Sargent | July 19, 2013