Top Reagan Scholar: Marco Rubio Is The ‘Closest Thing’ To A ‘Next Reagan’

Of all the potential presidential candidates, there is one who stands out as the most Reagan-esque figure, despite — and perhaps because of — his stance on immigration reform, a top Reagan biographer says.

While he remains at odds with some conservatives who oppose a “path to citizenship” for illegal aliens, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida is well positioned to “reinvigorate the GOP” and “renew the conservative movement in 2016,” Paul Kengor, a Grove City College political science professor and author, told The Daily Caller in an interview.

“If Republicans do not nominate Marco Rubio in 2016, they’re nuts and they don’t deserve to win,” Kengor said. “Rubio is an excellent communicator who can deliver the conservative message in a likeable, winsome way just like Reagan did.”

After compiling a list of 11 principles that “paint a comprehensive picture” of what it means to be a Reagan conservative, Kengor says he concluded that Rubio best fits the Reagan mold in terms of core convictions and his ability to communicate with non-conservatives.

Kengor’s latest book, “11 Principles of a Reagan Conservative,” is the fifth he has authored on the former president in the past 10 years. The book’s final chapter, “A Time for Choosing” takes its title from the speech Reagan delivered 50 years ago this year on behalf of Barry Goldwater who was the 1964 Republican presidential candidate. The “Time for Choosing Address” is widely viewed as the speech that launched Reagan’s political career.

Anticipating that Republican presidential candidates will invoke Reagan in the 2016 primary as they have in previous election cycles, Kengor says he created the list in part so that voters could more precisely match a particularly candidate’s comments with Reagan’s philosophy.

If Rubio does enter the presidential fray, Kengor acknowledges that the Florida Republican will need to address the skeptics of immigration reform who are a potent force within the conservative movement.

After initially supporting the “comprehensive” version of immigration reform as part of the “Gang of Eight” in the Senate last year, Rubio has steadily gravitated away from that position. He now says he favors an incremental approach to reform more in step with what his House Republican colleagues have offered.