The flap over Florida Sen. Marco Rubio’s family isn’t quite over, but as I predicted, there is no sign it has hurt him politically in the least. To the contrary, he’s received a series of laudatory accounts in the Florida press.
The editor of the opinion page at Fort Lauderdale’s Sun Sentinel writes:
[W]hat determines exile status, and the exile experience, is not when you left Cuba, but if you can return. You bet the Cuban government has a big say, too, in whether your life is an “exile” or “immigrant” narrative.
There are many Cubans in the United States. We have come at different points in the past 60 years — yes, 60, because Cuba’s run-ins with dictators really started with Fulgencio Batista’s 1952 coup. A dictator is a dictator, whether from the right or left.
Today, many Cubans and Cuban Americans still think like “exiles,” and many now think like “immigrants,” to one degree or another. The common denominator is that the date of departure is seldom the determining factor in that transition.
Regardless of when Rubio’s family arrived in the United States, I can guarantee you one thing: The junior U.S. senator is not going to be allowed in Cuba to see the country of his parents’ birth.
He’d be deemed an “exile.” Just ask the Cuban government.
In a real way, this episode has boosted Rubio’s credentials, both in the Senate and as a potential VP candidate. Some righteous indignation over his status as an exile — that is, one who cannot return to his parents’ country due to political repression — shows he can block a wild swing and shove back.
Moreover, it has confirmed him as a hugely popular figure within the GOP. Not a single conservative media outlet, to my knowledge, tried to use this to damage his standing as the rising star. A number of conservative officials and candidates, including Mitt Romney, rallied to his defense. If the presidential candidates sow divisiveness, Rubio engenders unity.
If the primary is prolonged and contentious, Rubio may be the sort of figure around whom disgruntled supporters of losing candidates can rally. And if Romney if the eventual, albeit not sizzling, favorite of the GOP, he’ll need to add some conservative firepower to the ticket. Either way, Rubio still retains the pole position for the VP selection.