Does Rubio have a future as a national candidate?

Most of the smart people I talk to think he doesn’t, now that the Florida Senator has laid it on the line for amnesty. But I’m not so sure. The Republicans nominated John McCain in 2008, not long after he had pushed for amnesty (though he backed away some during the primary season). And the Republicans nominated Mitt Romney in 2012 notwithstanding Romneycare (though he made it clear during the primary season that he was opposed to Obamacare).

Moreover, by pushing for amnesty, Rubio has won favor with the business/establishment wing of the party. This faction was instrumental in Romney’s nomination, and generally has gotten its way when it comes to selection of the Republican standard bearer.

By pushing for amnesty, Rubio has also probably made himself more electable if he were to be nominated for president. Many Republican primary voters take electability (as they assess it) into account, and some give it great weight.

Rubio also remains quite popular among evangelicals, many of whom misguidedly support amnesty. A candidate who is well regarded by both the business/establishment wing and the evangelicals cannot be written off.

To be sure, Rubio has seriously alienated many Tea Party adherents and other members of the conservative base. But, as John Podhoretz reminds us, the primaries don’t begin for another 30 months, which “is practically an epoch in politics.” Nor do presidential politics end in 2016. If immigration reform doesn’t pass, Rubio may be able to regain some of his standing with some of the voters who are very upset with him now.

Would I vote for Rubio? I can’t imagine ever doing so in a Republican presidential primary or a Senate primary where there is a credible alternative. (The general election is an entirely different matter).

My opposition isn’t based solely on Rubio’s immigration stance, although this is by far the most consequential issue he has handled during his three years in Washington, so that it’s reasonable for those of us who strongly oppose his amnesty legislation to vote against him on this basis alone.

The other big problem is trust. Just three years ago, Rubio ran for the Senate as an unequivocal opponent of the kind of legislation he has now sponsored. A politician can, in good faith, change his mind, of course. But that doesn’t seem to be what happened here.

In his time as Speaker of the Florida House, before he ran for the Senate, Rubio’s positions were pro-illegal immigrant. And his position today is pro-illegal immigrant. I conclude, therefore, that the hard line he took as a Senate candidate against amnesty for illegal immigrants in 2010 was insincere. Accordingly, I don’t believe Rubio can be trusted.

Does any of this mean he should be “excommunicated” from the Republican Party of the conservative movement? No, I agree with John about this. Rubio’s positions are almost always those taken by Republicans and conservatives. Even his position on immigration isn’t anti-conservative. Reasonable conservatives can, and do, disagree about amnesty, etc.

In any event, there is no Pope of conservatism or Republicanism. Thus, Rubio couldn’t be excommunicated even if he deserved to be. All we can do is vote against him.

I intend to do so if he runs for president. But many Republicans, and many conservatives, will see the matter differently. So Rubio may have a future as a national candidate.

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