Rubio the juggler

He is juggling immigration reform and the Tea Party that opposes it

Senator Marco Rubio (R-Florida) is a key player in the process to achieve immigration reform. Numerous expectations whose realization will depend on his political ambitions now rest on his shoulders.

Rubio is a central piece of the puzzle for Republican efforts to regain the support of the Latino electorate. The Senator’s image in the upper chamber has been moderate in the past 27 months—while still being conservative—in contrast with the aggressive style of Ted Cruz, the other Latino figure in the GOP horizon.

At the same time, the Florida lawmaker is one of four Republican members of the Gang of Eight senators who are negotiating the content of an immigration reform bill. According to the Growth and Opportunity Project, this bill can open doors for Republicans when it comes to Latinos. The GOP hopes Rubio makes the most of the support he has among the Tea Party’s ultraconservatives.

The big question is what Rubio’s priority is: responding to the party’s strategy or seeking favor with a sector of the party base that is increasingly upset about the course of the reform? This ambivalence is reflected in the contradictory tone of wanting a reform and being willing to have it languish in endless hearings, or saying a deal is “premature,” which contradicts the Democratic optimism of a colleague from his group.

Rubio is now a juggler trying to balance two currents; at some point, he will have to decide between supporting the reform and continuing to cultivate an enthusiastic GOP base, which will be the cornerstone for any subsequent political ambition. This type of dilemma is at the center of the Republican strategy in various fronts, where they want to portray a more open, inclusive image.

We can’t say that the success of immigration reform depends on Rubio. But his person and his decision have an important role in the bill and the Republican Latino strategy.