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Marco Rubio confronts fallout from immigration stance

Sen. Marco Rubio, R, of Miami, talks with business leaders concerned about Obamacare during a meeting lead by the Gainesville Chamber of Commerce Monday Aug. 12, 2013 at the chamber office in the Commerce Building in Gainesville, Fla. Since championing immigration reform, Rubio’s standing has slipped in some polls. (AP Photo/The Gainesville Sun, Brad McClenny) Sen. Marco Rubio  talks with business leaders  Aug. 12 at the Commerce Building in Gainesville, Fla. (Brad McClenny/The Gainesville Sun via AP)

ORLANDO — Long a rising star among conservative activists, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fl.) came face-to-face today with the fallout from his role in helping craft a bipartisan Senate compromise to overhaul the nation’s immigration system.

 Speaking Friday at the opening session of the “Defending the American Dream Summit” sponsored by the Americans for Prosperity Foundation, the senator was interrupted repeatedly by calls of “No amnesty!” from attendees scattered throughout the 1,000-person audience.

Rubio did not acknowledge the shouts, but ended his speech with an impassioned description of the promise that America offers immigrants such as his parents, who came from Cuba.

“My family’s story not just about them – it’s about us,” he said. “It’s the story of millions of people before them and since who achieved here in this land what would have been impossible almost anywhere else. That is still who we are. Today there are millions of people among us, trying to do what my parents did for us and what your parents did for you."

He did not directly address immigration reform, an issue that has frayed his relationship with many in the tea party movement.

“I’d like to see Marco Rubio, just so I can tell him what I think of his positions: He’s on the wrong track of being a conservative,” Rick Barr, a 60-year-old activist from Indianapolis, said before his speech.

Some said Rubio needed to address the topic head-on  to win over skeptics.

“We’re all a little irritated with Marco,” said Judy Peterson, a retired special education teacher from Treasure Island, Fla. “Now, that doesn’t mean we’ve thrown him under the bus. But we would like him to, just come on. He hasn’t explained it very well.”

Matea Gold is a national political reporter for The Washington Post, covering money and influence.

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