Marco Rubio's Crusade to Sell Immigration Reform to Conservatives

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Rush Limbaugh warned on Monday that "It’s up to me and Fox News" to stop the threat of amnesty for illegal immigrants he sees in a new bipartisan immigration reform plan. But it's looking like it's up to Sen. Marco Rubio to sell Limbaugh and other Fox News devotees on backing the plan. Rubio will go on Limbaugh's show Tuesday to help sell the proposal. Rubio's sales pitch to Limbaugh will be a telling moment in his crusade to limit conservative backlash against an immigration deal. Rubio, one of the Republican senators backing the plan, went on Sean Hannity's show Monday night to sell the proposal, emphasizing that stronger enforcement of immigration laws would come "before we can move toward a path for green cards – because citizenship comes after that." Last week, before the Senate proposal was unveiled, Rubio successfully charmed conservative talk radio host Mark Levin. "We have de facto amnesty right now,"  Levin said. "When [Rubio] said it, it set a light bulb off."

In Rubio's interview with Hannity, Rubio showed his fluency in the major conservative complaints about amnesty by promising his bill would address all of them. Compare what Rubio said on Fox News to, for example, what two South Carolina conservatives, Ken Sowell and Bill Storey, told The New York Times' Michael D. Shear about why they opposed reform:

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Ken Sowell: "We need to enforce the border."

Rubio: "There have to be enforcement mechanisms that are verified and in place. And it’s not just the border, Sean. It’s workplace enforcement because that’s the magnet for illegal immigration. And it’s tracking the entry and exit visas."

Sowell: "If they want to apply legally more power to them. I don’t think just because a bunch of people violate the law, we ought to change the law for them."

Rubio: "All of these things must happen before there is a path to a green card."

Bill Storey: "We should not adopt policies to reward them for coming into this country illegally."

Rubio: "You’re going to be fingerprinted. You’re going to have a background check done. You’re going to have to pay taxes and fines... The bottom line is that it would have been cheaper and easier for them to have done it the legal way than the way they are going to get it now."

But even better than soothing the fears of conservatives worried about amnesty is having a common enemy to fight against. Someone like, oh, say, President Obama, who will reveal his own immigration proposal Tuesday. "While some might view Obama’s insertion into the debate as a 'poison pill,' my guess is it will benefit Rubio by allowing him to attack Obama — and simultaneously push the senate’s more prudent framework," The Daily Caller's Matt Lewis writes. Rubio can go on Limbaugh's show and bash Obama. And early reports indicate Obama will offer something significantly more lefty than the senators proposed Monday -- he'll include gay couples. Tuesday morning, that was working well on The Drudge Report, which linked to an ABC News story about Obama's immigration proposal with the banner headline, "COMING: AMNESTY FOR 11 MILLION."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.