On ABC’s “This Week” the other day, Marco Rubio continued his offensive against Ted Cruz, focusing primarily on immigration. Cruz, Rubio said, “has changed his position on immigration all over the place.” The Floridian added, “This is not consistency; this is calculation as he’s changed his position on these issues as we get closer to Election Day.”
It’s difficult to understand why the senator’s strategists have told him to push this line so aggressively. Just as a basic test of self-awareness, Rubio must be aware of his own vulnerabilities on the very issue he’s pushing to the fore.
As we discussed several weeks ago, it was Rubio who co-authored the immigration-reform package – which much of the Republican base now condemns as “amnesty” – championed by President Obama and congressional Democrats. The senator then betrayed his allies and announced he’d abandoned the comprehensive legislation he helped write, shifting with the winds in the hopes of placating the Republican base and helping his 2016 campaign.
Or put another way, “This is not consistency; this is calculation as he’s changed his position on these issues as we get closer to Election Day.”
It’s probably Rubio’s greatest vulnerability – are Republicans prepared to nominate the co-author of Obama’s immigration bill? – and at least one of his rivals doesn’t want voters to forget it. Bloomberg Politics reported:
The super-PAC supporting Jeb Bush plans to spend nearly $3 million on a TV ad campaign painting Marco Rubio as “just another Washington politician” who has repeatedly changed his mind on immigration.The ad campaign by Right to Rise PAC … will run starting Monday night in Iowa and South Carolina, and on Fox News nationally, according to a spokesman for the group. It will spend $1,834,000 running it in Iowa over the next two weeks, and $1,039,000 in South Carolina over the next week.
For Rubio, the biggest problem with the ad is that it happens to be accurate.
The 30-second commercial is online here. For those who can’t watch clips online, it shows Rubio as a weather vane, constantly pointing in different directions, moving with the winds. The script reads:
“Marco Rubio. He ran for Senate saying he opposed amnesty. Then he flipped, and worked with liberal Chuck Schumer to co-author the path-to-citizenship bill. He threatened to vote against it, and then voted for it. He supported his own DREAM Act and then he abandoned it. Marco Rubio, just another Washington politician you can’t trust.”
The spot closes by showing a Jeb Bush banner on a train, saying the former governor is “a leader, so you always know where he stands.”
Bush isn’t the ideal messenger for this message – Jeb endorsed many of Rubio’s original positions, before the senator abandoned his purported principles – but that doesn’t negate the fact that the criticisms in the ad are true. Rubio really has reversed course, more than once, on the issue that used to be his signature policy priority.
And unless the senator has access to a time machine, this is a problem Rubio can’t easily correct. It was just in the last Congress he worked with liberal Democrats on immigration reform, and GOP voters will either accept his flip-flop or they won’t.
The senator may, however, still be able to mitigate some of the damage by changing the subject. Someone convinced Rubio, however, it would help him to push the importance of immigration “consistency.” That was very bad advice.