Rubio’s standing among Republicans takes a big hit

Nate Silver looks at two polls — the only two, he says — that test Marco Rubio’s popularity in the aftermath of the Senate having reached the final stages of passing a comprehensive immigration reform bill. One poll is by Rasmussen; the other by ABC News/Washington Post.

Both find a double-digit drop in Rubio’s net favorability rating among Republicans. Rasmussen finds that Rubio’s favorability rating with this group dropped from 58 percent to 42 percent between early May and late June of this year. ABC News/Washington Post finds a decline from 43 percent to 25 percent since last August.

The disparity in Rubio’s current favorability rating — 42 percent vs. 25 percent — seems odd. The questions posed in the two surveys are similar, though not identical.

Rasmussen asked 1,000 likely voters (so, presumably around 300 Republicans): “Do you have a very favorable, somewhat favorable, somewhat unfavorable or very unfavorable impression of Marco Rubio?” ABC News/Washington Post asked 1,010 adults: “Overall, do you have a favorable or unfavorable impression of Marco Rubio?” The results of that survey cited above are for registered voters.

In addition, the surveys reach disparate results for independent voters. ABC News shows Rubio’s favorability rating slipping with this group, while Rasmussen shows it improving.

Still, there’s little reason to doubt the finding of both polls that Rubio’s standing with Republicans declined considerably as the Schumer-Rubio legislation moved to the brink of Senate passage. Rubio is a good politician, but he’s not a magician. Crusading for legislation that most Republicans don’t favor was bound to hurt his favorability rating.

It’s a long way from now to the 2016 primary season, of course. But it seems to me unlikely that Rubio will recoup much of his lost standing. In fact, if he runs for president, his standing might decline further.

I suspect that many Republicans either aren’t fully aware of Rubio’s role in pushing for amnesty legislation or do not understand the extent to which his legislation aligns with the liberal position on immigration reform. Rubio has presented ads on Fox News that tout his bill as “conservative” and he has frequently appeared on Fox News programs pushing the same line — largely unchallenged until recently.

But during the primary season, Rubio will be hammered in debates by one or more Schumer-Rubio opponents (perhaps Ted Cruz, for example). Thus, the public discussion of his position will be less weighted in Rubio’s favor than it has been this season.

This doesn’t mean that Rubio has no shot at the Republican nomination; nor is that my view. But his shot is much longer now than it was half a year ago.