Afternoon must-read: With immigration, Marco Rubio risks D.C. insider label

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This afternoon’s must-read is from Alexander Burns and Maggie Haberman of POLITICO, who write that “With immigration, Marco Rubio risks D.C. insider label.

While his fellow 2016 prospects in the Senate – Rand Paul of Kentucky and Ted Cruz of Texas, for starters – are serving up crowd-pleasing speeches in Iowa and South Carolina, Rubio [in his first term] is spelling out his views on the Grassley, Cornyn and Leahy amendments and other proposed immigration tweaks that are utterly obscure to the larger public. Rubio is modulating his position … to demand tighter border security and enforcement triggers, and threatening to pull out over a gay-rights provision, all while pushing the larger message that passing a reform bill should be a top GOP priority. … Half a dozen Rubio advisers … said they’re confident that a victory on immigration will ultimately vindicate all these messy efforts. A successful bipartisan bill that provides a pathway to citizenship while delivering on conservative priorities such as border security would be a monumental triumph in the nation’s terminally broken capital. And if the bill fails – well, they say Rubio went in with open eyes about the political and legislative dangers of trying to be a genuine leader for the GOP, rather than a merely a camera-ready symbol of Republican diversity. …

“[One adviser said:]: ‘He looks like a guy who took a principled stand and went to Washington to try to fix things.’ That Rubio’s legislative efforts are viewed as deeply risky may say as much about the state of Washington and modern politics, as it does about Rubio and immigration reform. Only recently has it been considered optional for a senator with national aspirations to actually, you know, legislate. But in the age of Obama – a senator who proved that substantive accomplishments aren’t an absolute prerequisite for the presidency – most of Rubio’s ambitious peers have taken another course, opting for the role of advocate and ideological champion, rather than that of legislative craftsman. … Said another Republican close to Rubio: ‘He’s known it would be [a risk] … I’m still a believer that if you make a difference in the job where you are, you get a promotion. I think Barack Obama was a unique case.’ … Rubio joined the Senate with the aura of the ultimate outsider: a youthful, silver-tongued upstart whose firm beliefs and oratorical gifts allowed him to overpower the craven, establishment-backed Charlie Crist. …

“Faith and Freedom Coalition president Ralph Reed, who supports the cause of immigration reform and introduced Rubio at a major evangelical conference this week, said in an interview that Rubio still has a reserve of goodwill to draw on with the base … [The] outcome will do much to shape the party’s view of Rubio’s legislative abilities – as well as his preparedness for another, bigger job. Republican donors, most of whom back immigration reform, are watching his role closely for precisely that reason. ‘Right now people think Marco isn’t ready,’ said one Republican donor … ‘That could change if he gets immigration done.'”

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Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.