NYT: Conservative Anger Grows Over Rubio’s Amnesty Past

Marco Rubio Holds Las Vegas Campaign Rally One Day Before GOP Debate
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Jeremy Peters of the New York Times writes that despite Marco Rubio’s best efforts to run away from his support of the Gang of Eight amnesty bill, “his past is catching up with him” and harming his 2016 prospects.

From the New York Times:

WASHINGTON — Senator Marco Rubio made a big bet on an immigration overhaul that failed – and he has been running away from it since. Now his past is catching up with him, stoking old grievances from conservative rivals who are reopening one of the most vulnerable episodes in his past.

The anger toward Mr. Rubio on the right has only grown in recent days as he has taken to aggressively questioning Senator Ted Cruz’s toughness on illegal immigration, a line of attack that some Republicans say they find disingenuous.

On talk radio, on the campaign trail and on television in states like Iowa, Mr. Rubio is suddenly facing a torrent of criticism from within his own party unlike anything he has faced so far in the presidential race.

Mr. Cruz’s campaign, which was initially rattled by Mr. Rubio’s attacks, is retaliating with a new ad that makes the case that the 2013 immigration bill Mr. Rubio helped write would have left the country exposed to attacks from Islamic State infiltrators. It shows Mr. Rubio standing with Democrats and conservative bogeymen like Senator John McCain as Mr. Cruz says: “Their misguided plan would have given Obama the authority to admit Syrian refugees, including ISIS terrorists. That’s just wrong.”

People who saw Mr. Rubio speak near Des Moines the other day found their windshields plastered with black-and-white fliers that mocked the Florida senator as “Chuck Schumer’s amnesty pitchman.” If Mr. Rubio is elected president, warned the fliers, which were noticed by a freelance journalist, he would support liberal immigration policies and “impose them by force on Americans.”

Mr. Rubio’s struggle to mollify Republicans who believe he betrayed conservative principles for political convenience – two years of outreach, apology and labored professions of a lesson learned – has never had higher stakes: He is trying to break out beyond the third- or fourth-place spot he holds in many polls by peeling away support from conservative favorites like Mr. Cruz and Ben Carson.

Yet his recent attacks on Mr. Cruz carry a fair amount of risk, as some influential conservatives are now rallying to Mr. Cruz’s side and denouncing Mr. Rubio.

Senator Jeff Sessions, the Alabama Republican who is a hero of the anti-immigration reform movement on the right, went on a conservative radio program Thursday to defend Mr. Cruz and say that Mr. Rubio would be held accountable by conservative voters who rallied around killing the 2013 legislation.

Read the rest of the story here.