By any objective measure, Sen. Marco Rubio had a big week. It was announced he would give the Republican response to the State of the Union. He was the guest at the first-ever “BuzzFeed Brews.” National Journal explained why he’s “Not Your Grandfather’s Republican.”
And, oh yeah, he’s on the cover of TIME magazine.
This is all impressive. But it’s also presents a challenge. Republicans need and want a leader who is capable of occasionally garnering favorable press. On the other hand, you can expect some conservatives to be suspicious of a Republican who gets too much positive coverage (this is sort of like how some “indie” music fans quit liking a band the moment they leave the garage and start attracting a larger audience).
There’s also another obvious challenge. As I have long noted, Rubio’s tackling of the hot-button issue of immigration reform is simultaneously courageous and risky.
Speaking of which — though it was largely ignored — during the “BuzzFeed Brews” event, Rubio spelled out how the current proposal is different from the 2007 proposal. I think this deserves at least as much attention as his Spotify Playlist:
… The difference between [the current proposed framework] and what was proposed in the past, is what the past actually did is create a pretty quick path that allowed you to apply for a green card in many cases sooner than you would have gotten it if you would have done it the legal way. And in many cases would have allowed you to leap frog because of the special pathway some people who were doing it the right way. And one of our organizing principles is that no one who has applied for a green card the right way will get one after anyone who has applied for it by first violating our immigration laws. That alone is a substantial difference.
And the other is the enforcement mechanisms. In 2007, the enforcement was as follows, if you fund x number of border security agents, if you fund x number of cameras or whatever, that is enforcement. That is not enough. I think in 2013 in order for this to work we have to have something that people believes A, is real security and B, is actually going to happen.”
Rubio’s challenge is to bridge the gap between the grassroots conservatives he needs as his support base — and the rest of America (whom he would like to persuade to embrace his conservative philosophy). It’s pretty easy to do one of these things. Few can manage both. This will be no easy task.