Marco Rubio’s determined courtship of the conservative talk host circuit during the immigration debate has undoubtedly disarmed some of the most provocative voices on the right.
Even many of the critics of Rubio and his approach to design a pathway to citizenship for those who entered the country unlawfully seem to articulate their opposition in a way that holds out hope the freshman Floridian can be saved from what they see as a policy and political disaster.
But a survey of what the top conservative influencers are saying and writing about Rubio offers an important reminder as the Senate heads to a vote on his legislation next month: By the numbers, he’s still losing the p.r. battle with the conservative commentariat.
He’s done well with two of the biggest voices on FOX and so far has prevented a direct strike from Rush Limbaugh, who wields the biggest megaphone with approximately 14 million listeners. But after that, the opposition is notably united. On Sunday, Sarah Palin became the latest player to line up against Rubio, calling out the senator for a “campaign flip-flop” via Twitter.
Ultimately what will matter most is where these talkers end up post- immigration debate — does Hannity stay in his corner?, #WWRD (What Will Rush Do?)
But here’s a list of where the 10 most influential voices on the right have come down at an important moment, ordered from the most effusive praise to the harshest critiques.
BILL O’REILLY, On board & in Rubio’s corner, the senator’s biggest coup: “It is time for the USA to pass immigration reform. For years I’ve called for a more secure southern border, you know that. And now it looks like the secure border is in reach. At least somewhat. So I hope this bill does become law” (6/20) Back in January, he told Rubio, “I like your program, I think it’s fair.”
SEAN HANNITY, Hasn’t joined O’Reilly with an endorsement, but has been defensive of the senator: ”I am not angry at Marco Rubio for trying hard to get something done .. . He tried hard. He outlined a plan that if he was in charge, I think it would’ve been workable.” (6/18)
RUSH LIMBAUGH, Complains about the legislation, but has steered clear of a direct assault on Rubio: “And I’ve had a number of people say to me about Senator Rubio what I just passed on to you, ‘Gee, I really wish he’d get out of this, because, whatever happens, I hope he doesn’t have any fingerprints on it when it’s all over.’” (6/19)
ERICK ERICKSON, Respectful dissent, but showing signs of support for a potential ’16 rival: “For too many conservatives, though, Senator Rubio appears to be trying to reconcile irreconcilable positions. Conservative groups that once touted him as the second coming of Ronald Reagan have moved on to Ted Cruz.” (6/20)
BILL KRISTOL, One of the first heavyweights to urge Rubio to abort the mission: “He should walk away from it. He should say, ‘I made a good faith effort, but you know what, this is not a piece of legislation.’” (5/21) More recently Kristol has said, “It’s bad legislation…the actual bureaucracy this sets up? The hurdles, triggers, standards– in that respect, it is like Obamacare…”
LAURA INGRAHAM, Steadfastly opposed to the bill and not pulling many punches against Rubio: “Stop dividing the Republican Party,” she urged during an appearance with the senator on Fox. (6/4) She’s also added, “We say Marco Rubio’s gonna do the right thing because we like Marco Rubio, but the question is is Marco Rubio just the liberals’ ambassador to conservatives, rather than the conservatives’ ambassador to the country. It seems like it is the other way around here.”
MARK LEVIN, Has grouped Rubio in “neo-statist” category: “It amazes me how few Republicans in elected office actually talk about the Constitution. They have no more respect for it, no more concern about its boundaries and limits than the left. That’s why I say they’re neo-statist.” Later, name-checked Rubio during the same tirade: “You got that, Marco? You got that Paul and Karl Rove, as you lie through your teeth, you got it, pal?” (6/15)
MICHELLE MALKIN, Has even tussled with Hannity to poke Rubio: ”Marco Rubio has made some extremely bad choices . . . Unfortunately Marco Rubio has been completely self-diluted . .. I think he’s trying to save face.” (5/6)
ANN COULTER, Went quasi-nuclear in her most recent attacks: ”The patriotic House member’s position has got to be until the Senate is in Republican hands, preferably Rubio-free, sorry, we’re not even going to pass a bill that mentions immigration (6/20) A week earlier she dubbed him, “the Jack Kevorkian of the Republican Party.”
GLENN BECK, ‘Dirtbag’ pretty much sums it up: “Let me tell you something Marco Rubio, I haven’t trusted you for quite some time. Rubio’s a dirtbag. He is not on our side. Don’t trust Marco Rubio.” (6/13)