Back in 2010, Rubio was a handsome and articulate State Senator in Florida when he decided to run for the U.S. Senate. Doing so meant defying the Republican establishment’s hand-picked selection, then-Governor Charlie Crist.
There were two make-or-break issues in the Republican primary that year. The first was Barack Obama’s massively expensive stimulus program. Crist was so enamored of it that he actually agreed to have a photograph taken of him publicly embracing the President. We’ll never know how many votes that hug cost him, but it was a bunch.
Rubio said that counting on federal handouts to create jobs was a huge mistake. He called instead for letting the free enterprise system work, by lowering taxes and reducing regulation. The voters made it clear which message they preferred.
The other issue that marked a sharp disagreement between the two candidates was immigration reform and, in particular, amnesty for the millions of people who were in this country illegally. Crist endorsed amnesty; Rubio, the son of immigrants from Cuba, said he was unalterably opposed to it. In speech after speech, Rubio repeated this warning in some form: If you grant amnesty in any form, you will destroy any chance we ever have of having a legal immigration system that works here in America.
It was those two stands, more than any others, that made Rubio a Tea Party favorite and led to his victory over his much more liberal opponent. Crist subsequently resigned from the Republican Party and joined the Democrats.
But since then, Rubio agreed to become one of four Republican members of the Senate’s Gang of Eight. Since two of his Republican colleagues were John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and the Democrat members included Chuck Schumer of New York and Robert Menendez of New Jersey, you won’t be surprised to learn that the final agreement includes amnesty.
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