The issue that ended Marco Rubio’s presidential campaign was the same issue that launched his national political career.
In 2010, Marco Rubio was propelled to the U.S. Senate by running one of the most anti-amnesty campaigns of the entire election cycle. Rubio campaigned against the DREAM Act and hammered opponent Charlie Crist for backing an “earned path to citizenship” for illegal immigrants— earning Rubio the plaudits of conservatives being introduced to him for the first time on the national stage.
Yet only one year after being sworn into the U.S. Senate, Rubio began working to implement his own version of the DREAM Act legislation he campaigned against. Only two years after being sworn in, Rubio became the driving force, central pitchman, legislative co-author and most zealous promoter of the biggest amnesty and mass immigration bill in the history of the United States and perhaps the world. Its passage through the U.S. Senate with 68 votes stands—to this day—as Rubio’s only major legislative achievement as a Congressional lawmaker.
As a senior Trump advisor put it days before the Florida primary: “Marco Rubio fought harder for Barack Obama’s amnesty, than Barack Obama fought for Barack Obama’s amnesty.”
Four years after being inaugurated to the Senate, Rubio entered the Republican primary race as the donor class favorite with seemingly limitless financial backing, media support, and institutional resources. Rubio was the handpicked successor to the legacy of Bush Republicanism: He was to be Paul Ryan’s partner in the White House to complete the immigration, trade and foreign policy legacy of George W. Bush.
Yet five years after being inaugurated, Rubio would suffer one of the most humiliating and crushing defeats in the history of U.S. electoral politics: losing his home state of Florida to political newcomer, Donald Trump, by a massive double-digit margin. Rubio lost every single county he represents in the U.S. Senate except for one—having lost 66 out of Florida’s 67 counties.
Moreover, Rubio failed to win a single primary election in a single American state (he won one caucus in Minnesota). By contrast, failed presidential aspirant Steve Forbes, who is hardly remembered as a skilled politician, managed to win primary contests in two American states in 1996—i.e. two more than what was won by Sen. Rubio in 2016.
To be so resoundingly electorally crushed given his incomparable advantage is likely a first in American history.
Winning one’s home state is considered a mere formality. In John McCain’s failed presidential run in 2000, he handily won Arizona by 25 points. In Mitt Romney’s failed run in 2008, he handily won Massachusetts by 10 points, and Mike Huckabee won Arkansas by 40 points. In Newt Gingrich’s failed 2012 run, he won Georgia by 21 points. In Ronald Reagan’s 1976 run, he crushed sitting President Gerald Ford in California by 30 points.
As the Daily Caller reported, it has been nearly a century since a sitting U.S. Senator lost his home state in a GOP presidential primary; however, the Senator in question was Hiram Johnson, running against popular incumbent President and conservative icon Calvin Coolidge who was seeking re-election after President Harding’s death in office – Coolidge had been Harding’s Vice President. It is unclear how far back one would have to go to find an example of a GOP Senator losing his home state in an open primary, let alone a GOP Senator groomed by the party to hold said office– to say nothing of the margin of defeat. Not much more than 1 in 4 GOP voters—let alone Florida voters in general—cast a ballot for their own Senator.
It is hard to overstate the height from which Rubio fell.
As The Washington Post reported, Rubio’s “ascent was propelled by a network of powerful players for years,” as “nobody embodied” the orthodoxy of Washington’s elite smart-set—i.e. “the Republican National Committee and leading voices at think tanks, editorial boards and Capitol Hill symposiums”—better than Marco Rubio.
As a result, while Trump may have been the beneficiary of so-called “free media,” Rubio—unlike Trump—was the beneficiary of free, positive media—compared to Trump’s free negative media (simply contrast the coverage of Trump’s second place Iowa finish on Fox News to the glowing praise of Rubio’s third place finish; or the focus on Trump Water, but not Rubio Amnesty).
Indeed, as New York Magazine reported, prior to the publication of a New York Times report exposing Rubio’s collusion with Fox News to quiet opposition to Obama’s 2013 immigration plan, Rubio benefited from the powerful support of the network:
“In his role as the donor class’s darling, Marco Rubio has enjoyed support from the Republicans’ media arm, Fox News. Throughout the primary, Fox provided Rubio with friendly interviews and key bookings… Many of the network’s top pundits, including Stephen Hayes and Charles Krauthammer, have been enthusiastic boosters. Bill Sammon, Fox’s Washington managing editor, is the father of Rubio’s communications director, Brooke Sammon.”
In one somewhat uncomfortable interview, Fox News’ Megyn Kelly effusively oozed out praise for the young Senator— describing his ability to repeat memorized talking points without a teleprompter as “amazing,” and telling Rubio, “you are very smooth.”
The story of how Marco Rubio went from being the “Republican Obama” to— what Paul Begala and Mickey Kaus have described as— the “Republican John Edwards” was based on one single issue: immigration. While other issues joined in his unraveling, that unraveling would never have started nor completed absent immigration. Immigration is the one issue at the center of Rubio’s disintegration; without those fateful events in 2013 and all that followed, the whole course of Rubio’s career, and human history, unfolds on an entirely different arc.
Where Rubio’s campaign started in 2015 and where he could have been in 2016 was inalterably changed by what he had done in 2013.
Indeed, after his election to the U.S. Senate, Rubio was regarded as a conservative grassroots darling—described as a “Tea Party hero,” dubbed a “GOP star,” hailed the “Republican savior” and the “great Hispanic hope of the Republican Party.”
In March of 2010, Rubio was a featured speaker at conservative icon Phyllis Schlafly’s 30th annual Eagle Forum Luncheon in Naples. Schlafly was one of the first major conservatives to endorse Rubio in his bid for the U.S. Senate.
Yet by March of 2016, Schlafly had already issued a 15-page memo documenting Rubio’s “betrayal” of the conservative movement. “Rubio traded shamelessly on the affection and trust conservatives had placed in him,” Schlafly wrote. “His deceptions about his immigration bill rivaled and exceeded Obama’s claims about disastrous Obamacare.”
Schlafly slammed Rubio as “Wall Street’s Obama” warning that “Rubio is the candidate of open borders, Obamatrade and mass immigration, making one last attempt to pull off one big con.”
Schlafly pointed out that—although it was not well-known nationally in 2010—Rubio’s pro-amnesty record extended back to his time as a Florida state legislator—prior to his run for the Senate. For instance, in 2006, Rubio voted to give discounted college tuition to illegal immigrants, which he continues to support to this day; and as Florida House Speaker, Rubio allowed a bill die that would have cracked down on sanctuary cities.
Moreover, Rubio’s dedication to opening America’s borders was not limited to his career-defining Gang of Eight bill. Indeed, after his Senate bill crashed in the House, Rubio subsequently became a defender of Obama’s executive amnesty for illegal immigrants who allegedly came to the country as minors. Moreover, in 2015, Rubio introduced the Immigration Innovation Act (known as I-Squared) which eliminated several categories of immigration caps entirely and would have allowed for an unlimited expansion of Muslim migration.
Schlafly’s blistering attack on Rubio was featured as the banner story on the Drudge Report, as was criticism levied against Rubio by the nation’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers represented by ICE Council President Chris Crane.
“Voters beware,” Crane said. “If elected President, Sen. Rubio’s Gang of Eight bill will be reintroduced and this time it will pass.”
While other factors may have driven voter opposition to Rubio—such as his support for Obama’s trade agenda, his litany of past personal and financial scandals, as well as empty and robotic performances that, in combination with said scandals, prompted the John Edwards comparison— people only began pulling at those threads after Rubio had been brought cratering down to earth from his highs of 2010 by his unyielding commitment to open America’s doors to a tidal wave of foreign migration on behalf of his donors.
“He sacrificed his career on the cross of amnesty,” Mickey Kaus told Breitbart. “He had everything in front of him. And then he threw it all away by listening to donors and consultants, instead of his constituents… Without the Gang of Eight bill, Rubio would probably be the GOP nominee now.”
Rubio’s position on immigration “sunk his campaign before it even started,” said Javier Manjarres, a Florida conservative journalist at Sharktank.com.
“Rubio betrayed many Floridians in 2010, and the election night results showed Rubio that they had not forgotten what he did,” said Manjarres.
Indeed as one Florida voter—and former Rubio-backer—Eliecer Hernandez told the Miami Herald: “You [i.e. Rubio] told me, as a member of the tea party, ‘Please vote for me’… We invested in you. What you did, the Gang of Eight?” said Hernandez, shaking his head in disapproval.
The Herald reports that another Florida voter, Osmany Gonzalez, “sitting next to Hernandez at a Cruz rally last week… called Rubio a ‘traitor.’”
“This was Rubio’s nomination to lose before he joined the infamous Senate ‘Gang of 8’ immigration reform bill,” said Manjarres. “If it wasn’t for his support of Obama’s immigration agenda, I believe that the field would have been cleared for Rubio to become the 2016 presidential nominee… Rubio gambled on immigration, and lost.”
Rubio “never had a prayer,” Rush Limbaugh said on his Wednesday program.
“Chuck Schumer took Marco Rubio out years ago,” Limbaugh explained. “It didn’t happen in this campaign. Schumer and the Gang of Eight Democrats took him out. I know it’s ultimately his [i.e. Rubio’s] responsibility, don’t misunderstand, but that’s where we trace this back.”
Yet far from denouncing his 2013 bill, Rubio continued to push for more immigration. “Instead of learning from this epic mistake, he doubled-down” by introducing the I-Squared bill in 2015, said NumbersUSA’s Chris Chiemlenski. “Throughout the election… the voters knew Rubio was about two things—bringing in more foreign workers to compete with Americans for jobs and wages and granting immediate, lifetime work permits to 11 million illegal aliens. A message that was rejected by the GOP base in 2013 and again in the form of Rubio’s candidacy in 2016.”
“Most Republican voters would like the law enforced and a lower overall levels of legal immigration,” explained the Center for Immigration Studies’ Steve Camarota. “There is no question that the number one thing that did him in was his position on immigration.”
“The fact is, the Gang of Eight tarred nearly everything Rubio did afterward,” wrote the Washington Examiner’s Byron York. “Some voters who were especially concerned about jobs saw Rubio as an advocate for bringing more foreign workers to the U.S. at the expense of Americans already here. It was the problem that kept on giving.”
Indeed, anyone following Trump’s Florida campaign was well aware of the thorough beating Rubio was receiving on immigration at Trump’s heavily-attended rallies. Politico reported in a March 5 piece entitled, “Trump savages Rubio at Florida rally”:
“Before Trump took the stage, a half-dozen speakers hammered Rubio’s record in the harshest possible terms. Several focused on a hot-button local issue, the 2014 layoffs of 250 American Disney IT workers, who were then asked to train their foreign replacements, who came to work on temporary H-1B work visas.
Sara Blackwell, a lawyer who has represented the workers in a suit against Disney, said Rubio ‘has actually been one of the largest supporters of bringing in these foreigners. He actually said there’s not any qualified Americans to do this job.’
After Blackwell, two of her clients spoke. One of them quoted a Rubio staffer, who told the New Yorker in 2013, ‘American workers can’t cut it.’
‘Shame on you, Marco Rubio,’ said the former Disney employee.
Next, the mother of a young man killed by an undocumented immigrant described her son’s murder in gruesome details. ‘I support Donald Trump over Marco Rubio because Mr. Trump is not afraid of telling it like it is,’ she said.
Stephen Miller, a Trump adviser and former aide to Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, urged attendees to ‘Make Florida Marco Rubio’s Waterloo.’
‘Send a message that a man who sells himself to a lobbyist in exchange for political favors will never get a single Florida delegate,” he said.
Miller led the crowd in chants of ‘No-show Marco,’ slammed the senator as ‘a supporter of unlimited Muslim migration into this country’ and called him a ‘wholly owned subsidiary’ of corporate interests.
The mere mention of Rubio’s name repeatedly elicited loud jeers.”
Yet despite all of the evidence, Beltway elites and professional Republicans have warped themselves into unimaginable contortions to argue that “Rubio’s Waterloo” was unrelated to his signature legislative achievement.
Topping the list of GOP contortionists is former chairman of the Florida Republican Party, Al Cardenas, who argues that the reason Rubio failed was not because he was committed to throwing open America’s borders, but was because he was not committed enough. As Jon Ward writes, Cardenas “pointed to the 2013 immigration fight as one of the most damaging periods in Rubio’s career, not because he backed a comprehensive bill, but because he cut and ran, leaving others in the lurch.”
The Weekly Standard’s Jonathan Last similarly assured readers that Rubio’s demise was unrelated to Rubio’s decision to become the face of Obama’s amnesty.
“You’re going to hear a lot of theorizing about why he lost. It was the Gang of Eight. It was Trump. It was the anger. It was the out-of-touch elites. None of this is correct,” Last writes. “Rubio’s participation in the Gang of Eight was always his Achilles Heel, yet he seems to have finessed the issue to the point that it became only a minor liability.”
Instead, Last attributes Rubio’s downfall to the presence of “too many candidates, the resource-warping effect of Jeb Bush, and bad early-state geography,” as well as his poor performance in New Hampshire.
For months, Last sought to convince readers that Rubio had already “put the Gang of 8 to bed.” Even after the very first debate—a debate in which Rubio was not asked a single question by Fox News about the Gang of Eight— Jonathan Last triumphantly declared: “The second most important development of the debate was Rubio’s ability to put the Gang of 8 to bed. Rubio was good all night—if we were doing a sabermetric ranking of the candidates, he lead the field. Easily. But the important thing for the long-term is that he’s squared the immigration circle. With that figured out, he really does look like Clinton ’92.”
Ironically, the country itself looks little like 1992 because of the immigration policies favored by Rubio, Ryan and the hardcore progressive left.
Today, approximately 9 in 10 green cards are issued to non-Western countries in Latin America, Asia, Africa, and the Middle East.
According to Pew, the U.S. has admitted 59 million immigrants since 1965. While fewer than 1 in 21 Americans were foreign-born in 1970, today—as a result of Kennedy’s immigration rewrite— nearly 1 in 7 U.S. residents was born in a foreign country. According to data compiled by the Migration Policy Institute, one quarter of today’s population is either foreign-born or a child of a foreign-born parent. Every three years, the U.S. voluntarily admits a new population of immigrants the size of Los Angeles. Analysis from the Senate Immigration Subcommittee reveals that over the next few decades between 2015 and 2065, unless Congress pauses or reduces visa issuances, immigration will add seven new people for every one net U.S. birth produced by today’s population—a ratio of seven-to-one.
92 percent of the Republican electorate think the projected future growth in immigration is too large and that the number of immigrants should either be frozen or reduced. Exit polling from the five primary states that voted on Tuesday showed that two thirds of those states’ Republican voters support Trump’s call for a temporary pause on Muslim migration.
As Tucker Carlson recently wrote in a Politico op-ed seemingly addressed to Washington Republican elites: “It turns out the GOP wasn’t simply out of touch with its voters; the party had no idea who its voters were or what they believed. For decades, party leaders and intellectuals imagined that most Republicans were broadly libertarian on economics and basically neoconservative on foreign policy. That may sound absurd now, after Trump has attacked nearly the entire Republican catechism (he savaged the Iraq War and hedge fund managers in the same debate) and been greatly rewarded for it, but that was the assumption the GOP brain trust operated under. They had no way of knowing otherwise. The only Republicans they talked to read the Wall Street Journal too.”
Life in Washington, Carlson explains, is “a warm bath.”
In his Tuesday victory speech at Mar-a-Lago, Trump made clear that from day one it was policy change undergirding his campaign:
“We came down the escalator, and it was about trade and it was about borders. And what happened is pretty quickly after that – and we were, we shot right up. I shot right to the top of the polls, and have been leading in the polls almost from the beginning, without fail.”
However, Rubio boosters and, indeed, even Rubio himself—seemingly eager to avoid looking inward at the voters’ rejection of the donor class’s agenda—looked to blame the American people, not the policies embraced by politicos.
As Byron York explained, “Many were more likely to blame the voters—they’re just too angry—than Rubio. Indeed, that might become the accepted pro-Rubio explanation of his loss; the country, in the middle of a temper tantrum, just wasn’t in the mood for a fellow as sunny as Marco Rubio.”
For instance, Rich Lowry’s analysis of Rubio’s ejection from the race comes in the form of a eulogy to Jack Kemp’s legacy with tepid qualifications about Kemp’s record sprinkled throughout. Despite Lowry’s former opposition to the Gang of Eight, his analysis oddly makes no specific mention of Sen. Rubio’s legislative record on immigration and his particular efforts to expand immigration. Instead, Lowry adopts the pro-Rubio media narrative suggesting that Rubio’s defeat represents “end of GOP optimism” and a “requiem” for the Kempian model of Republican politics that “represented a belief in the future and the power of ideas.”
Prior to the publication of Lowry’s piece, Ann Coulter—like York—observed that this failure-of-positive-thinking angle was going to be the beltway’s agreed upon narrative for analyzing Rubio’s demise.
“Media’s favorite line tonight: Rubio lost because he was too optimistic. Yeah, the whole treason thing had nothing to do with it,” Coulter wrote on Twitter.
Indeed, Rubio himself sought to blame voter anger. As Rubio said in his Tuesday night concession speech:
“America is in the middle of a real political storm, a real tsunami, and we should have seen this coming. Look, people are angry and people are really frustrated… America needs a vibrant conservative movement—but one that’s built on principles and ideas, not on anger, not on preying on people’s frustrations.”
Rubio then praised his campaign’s refusal to stoke voters’ anger. “From a political standpoint, the easiest thing to have done in this campaign is to jump on all those anxieties I just talked about, to make people angrier, make people more frustrated. But I chose a different route and I’m proud of that,” Rubio said.
However, this analysis seems almost painfully blind to the extent to which Sen. Rubio created that anger in the first place.
As Coulter bluntly wrote on Twitter, “Rubio concession speech talking @ some mysterious anger among the voters! Hey Rubio – they’re angry at you for betraying them with amnesty!”
“Rubio saying ‘angry’ voters don’t want to vote for him is like a rapist complaining girls don’t want to talk to him,” Coulter continued.
With the punditry class’ collective decision to write the narrative of Rubio’s demise as a story unrelated to policy, they are propping open the door for a Rubio reemergence into the political realm.
Yet what is perhaps most troubling—from the standpoint of journalistic ethics—is that in writing the closing chapter of Rubio’s 2016 hopes in this way, Beltway elites are muffling the resounding message voters sought to send to Washington politicians—namely, that if you betray voters on the critical issue of immigration, the American people will not be quick to forget it.