Rush Limbaugh’s argument to Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) about why he’s not inclined to support Rubio’s immigration reform bill was pretty straightforward: Latinos don’t like Republicans and with their freeloading, big government ways, they never will. So why bring in more of them?
“I must tell you, I just don’t understand this, Senator,” Limbaugh said in opening his interview with Rubio on his radio program Thursday. “I don’t understand why we are doing something that the Democrats are salivating over.”
Limbaugh’s argument, common among reform opponents, was that Latino voters are sympathetic to a more active government in polling and therefore don’t deserve the party’s attention. He suggested trying to maximize the evangelical vote instead.“I know that you say the political aspects of this are not yours, but so many people are scared to death, Senator, that the Republican party is committing suicide,” Limbaugh said. “That we’re going to end up legalizing 9 million automatic Democrat voters and that’s why the Democrats are so adamant.”
Limbaugh also said: “I see polling data again that suggests 70 percent of the Hispanic population worldwide or in the country believes that government is the primary source of prosperity. I don’t, therefore, understand this contention that Hispanics are conservatives in waiting. ”
Rubio said that his interest in the bill was strictly policy based, not political. But he countered that Hispanic voters were no different than other must-win blocs, like the millennial vote, in that Republicans had failed to properly present their arguments to them in recent years.
“I’m not prepared to admit that there’s this entire population of people who, because of their heritage, are not willing to listen to our pitch about why limited government is better,” Rubio said.
Instead, he said the GOP needs to “do a better job of explaining how the free market system is the only way to create the kind of growth and opportunity that America’s always been identified with,” not only with Latinos but with a variety of voting blocs that have gone Democrat in recent elections.
Limbaugh also expressed skepticism about why the bill would grant limited legal status to many undocumented immigrants before border security measures go into effect, which are only a prerequisite for most newly legalized immigrants to apply for a green card ten years down the line. Rubio defended the measure as a national security issue, saying it was necessary because “we dont know who they are,” and noted that their provisional status would still require them to follow the law or risk deportation.
But on a more fundamental level, Limbaugh just didn’t seem to get why Republicans really needed to consider any kind of immigration policy changes at all.
“Why do we have to alternatives?” he asked. “They are proposing things that we intrinsically disagree with — why can’t we just say no?”
While Limbaugh ended the interview by calling Rubio a “straight shooter” and wishing him luck on his efforts, the conversation reflected the very real opposition the senator will need to overcome in selling his party on a bill. Also Thursday, Sens. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) and David Vitter (R-LA) are scheduled to host an anti-immigration reform press conference timed to coincide with Rubio’s own rollout of his bill with the other members of the “Gang of 8” who wrote it. Rubio is definitely taking the threat seriously, though: he’s making the rounds on right wing radio to try and contain a backlash and debuted a new website on Thursday designed to combat “myths” about the bill.