Comprehensive immigration reform still looks uncertain on Capitol Hill as the principles laid out by Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and the other members of the bipartisan “Gang of Eight” slowly evolve into legislative text. But Rubio’s lead role in this has been crucial. Equally important, was the template Rubio provided by engaging with media of all stripes – conservative, mainstream and online – to sell the idea, and his party, to audiences outside the usual Republican comfort zone.
Diagnosing what ails the Republican Party has become a favorite Beltway pastime. But it’s clear that rebuilding the brand among Latino voters tops the “to-do” list. President Barack Obama defeated GOP nominee Mitt Romney by more than 20 points among Latino voters, according to many exit polls. The GOP has a small amount of time until this trend is set in stone.
Enter Rubio, who tackled an historically difficult issue – particularly for the GOP’s conservative wing, with whom he is identified. His immigration principles had to withstand scrutiny on the right and address the White House’s moving goalposts on the left. The first-term senator faced the challenge of dealing with both ends of the political spectrum without losing his balance.
Rubio’s template has been to speak with everyone – from conservative radio hosts such as Rush Limbaugh and Mark Levin to Spanish-language interviewers on Univision to influential websites like BuzzFeed, where he expounded on everything from Tupac Shakur to his immigration plan.
Senator Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), another member of the Gang of Eight, described Rubio’s as being “in the lion’s den” when he appeared on conservative talk shows, which continue to rail against “amnesty.”