Marco Rubio And Ted Cruz Finally Have Their Reckoning On Immigration

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After weeks of trading barbs over each other’s immigration positions while remaining vague on their own, Sens. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Ted Cruz (R-TX) finally had their big, climatic showdown on the so-called “amnesty” question, with Rubio in some respects turning the tables on Cruz.

Going into Tuesday debate, immigration had been a weakness for Rubio among conservative voters and Cruz had been dogging him on the issue from afar on the campaign trail. Ultimately, Rubio didn’t have to give up much — he landed on supporting green cards for undocumented immigrants — but he was able to put Cruz on the spot for his own waffling on the issue.

Rubio’s involvement in the failed 2013 “Gang of Eight” immigration bill had long been viewed as a vulnerable spot for him among hard-right primary voters, a vulnerability that only increased as frontrunner Donald Trump has amped up the rhetoric on immigration.

Sure enough, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) used a question about national security to attack the Florida senator for having “more of an allegiance to Chuck Schumer and to the liberals than he does to conservative policy.”

But Paul was really only taking a page out of the Cruz playbook, as the Texas conservative used immigration as his opening shot in the ongoing Cruz-Rubio campaign trail spat.

When debate moderator Dana Bash asked Rubio point blank where he stood on the substance of the bill, particularly its pathway to citizenship, Rubio tried the sort of equivocating that he’s used to avoid the question in the past: Americans don’t trust the federal government to enforce immigration laws, that security measures must be increased, and that only then could undocumented immigrants receive work permits.

But pressed further, he finally landed on his position:

“I personally am open to allowing people to apply for a green card,” Rubio said. “That may not be a majority position in my party, but that’s down the road.”

Bash turned the debate to Cruz, asking him about how his position compares to Rubio’s. The Texas senator did not turn down another opportunity bash Rubio’s involvement in the immigration legislation as a national security threat.

Allowed to respond to Cruz, Rubio said he was “puzzled” by Cruz’s “attack on this issue,” accusing Cruz of supporting a pathway to citizenship as well as an increase to legal immigration. When Cruz rebutted the claim, Rubio urged Bash to press whether Texas senator would rule out legalizing people here illegally, which she did.

“I have never supported legalization and I don’t intend to support legalization,” Cruz said, referring to citizenship for current undocumented immigrants.

While conservatives will surely continue to jump on Rubio for supporting “amnesty,” Cruz’s admission that he could cost him as well, which could explain Rubio’s grin once Cruz clarified his stance.

It was only a few weeks ago that Cruz was refusing to even define “amnesty” — even in the context of his opposition to it — perhaps out of fear of being boxed in.

And the Rubio campaign was ready for Cruz’s remark. Minutes later, it blasted a memo to reporters arguing that Cruz had previously been open to giving undocumented immigrants legal status.

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Notable Replies

  1. El Rrrrubio lucha El ssCrrrruz a noite.
    (cue any music from Ben Hur)

    Próximamente a TLC: ¡Bogus latinos batalla a la muerte! ¡Nadie puede detenerlos!

  2. This, to me, was perhaps the most crucial part of the debate. And for once, I agreed with CNN stifling Fiorina from trying to interrupt it, time limits be damned.

    Immigration is THE topic for the GOP this year. Trump’s position is well known and not changing. Cruz and Rubio as the #2 and #3 have quite a bit to go back and forth on on this topic.

    And I think Rubio shot himself in the foot on it. He finally, after being pushed, admitted that he is for a pathway to citizenship (one that takes over a decade, but still). That is a completely unacceptable position for today’s GOP.

    Overall, I think Rubio was the loser tonight. Not that he did bad tactically ore made any big mistakes besides the one I listed above, but because JEB was the getting the spotlight in his tiff with Trump,and Christie didn’t hurt himself (didn’t really help either).

    That’s bad news for Rubio. He absolutely has to seal the deal with the Establishment. And, combined with the immigration blunder, and being on the defensive most of the night…I don’t think he did.

  3. Avatar for mrf mrf says:

    The problem for Rubio is the Establishment wants immigration reform but the base is vociferously opposed so he has to find a position that somehow threads the needle between the two. I wish someone called him and Cruz out on support for years of Wet-Food Dry-Foot yet they shout about amnesty which path to citizenship is not.

  4. that, like his bretheren, he is as phony as the day is long. While he struts in his choir-boy robe, he’s as queer as a three-dollar bill; my gay friends will understand the reference.

    I wonder? How can anyone be so odious and sleep in the same bed with hisself. While many answers present themselves, only one answer is true:

  5. It was a nice visit to Bullshit mountain , with each and every one of them more disingenuous than the other . So many things to be afraid of so little time. My favorite though was the two Cubans who conveniently forgot the Mariel Boatlift when Castro dumped out the prisons and asylums and let 125,000 hit south Florida . More than a few suspects in that crowd and yet they were welcomed and embraced. I was there . Not much fun

    Oh for a real moderator who could ask them and watch them squirm .

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