Marco Rubio has taken plenty of lumps from his conservative brethren this past year for his role in the ill-fated effort to overhaul the nation’s immigration system.
But according to a piece this week on BuzzFeed, Rubio resuscitated his 2016 prospects with a speech that will almost certainly be forgotten by the next Iowa caucuses.
“The Florida senator has become a conservative golden boy again after a 14-minute speech he never meant to give,” McKay Coppins wrote on Wednesday.
Coppins asserted that a Rubio “comeback” is underway, all thanks to one of the junior senator’s characteristic diatribes against the socialist governments in Cuba and Venezuela. The Feb. 24 floor speech was inspired by liberal Sen. Tom Harkin’s (D-IA) cheery report from his trip to Cuba. Rubio, the son of Cuban immigrants, proceeded to tear into the retiring Harkin.
Even less persuasive than the impetus for the alleged “comeback” is the paucity of evidence Coppins provides that Rubio is once again a darling of the right.
There were “happy headlines” at Breitbart (actually just one headline). The Blaze urged readers to check out Rubio’s “amazing” speech. The speech even “went viral” after scoring a coveted link on the Drudge Report. And, wait, there’s more!
“Even Townhall’s Conn Carroll, one of Rubio’s chief antagonizers during the immigration battle, declared him the ‘2016 frontrunner’ on Twitter this week,” Coppins wrote.
The Huffington Post’s Jason Linkins has already shredded this thesis, noting among other things that Carroll was hardly one of the senator’s fiercest critics.
And it’s not as though those conservative outlets had stopped giving Rubio positive press coverage. In October of last year, The Blaze invited readers to watch “Rubio’s Comments On Jesus That Made The Crowd Erupt.” Rubio himself contributed to Breitbart in November with an editorial on President Obama’s “bailout culture.”
Interspersed between those stories were plenty of critical pieces on Rubio’s involvement in immigration reform, which really only further undermines the “comeback” premise. It’s hard to see how a topic Rubio probably addresses dozens of times a year will do much to absolve him from charges that he supported “amnesty,” a right-wing sin that his GOP rivals will highlight relentlessly in the South Carolina primary.
Coppins himself hedged at the end of his story, writing that Rubio’s “senior staff remains clear-eyed about how media narratives can work.”
“One aide said he expected the backlash to the Rubio comeback story to materialize within weeks,” he cautioned.
But three paragraphs prior, a Rubio spokesperson sounded pretty confident that “a lot of Americans do care about the tyranny we see in Cuba and Venezuela.”
Actually, no, a poll released last month from the Atlantic Council found that most Americans are a lot less hostile to Cuba than Rubio. Fifty-six percent of American adults overall — including 52 percent of Republicans — said they favor normalizing relations with the Cuban government.
Rubio, meanwhile, used his “comeback” speech to call for a continuation of sanctions against Cuba.