MIAMI — Two years removed from an immigration swoon, Sen. Marco Rubio is poised to enter the presidential sweepstakes a major contender reinvigorated by dogged focus and expertise on international affairs.
The Florida Republican’s 2013 drive to sell comprehensive immigration reform fell flat with many conservatives. Bipartisan “gang of eight” legislation Rubio negotiated cleared the Senate. But the GOP-controlled House rejected the bill, and grassroots activists who championed Rubio during his Tea Party-fueled 2010 Senate victory reconsidered their affection. At issue: the bill’s provision creating a conditional path to legalization and possible citizenship for illegal immigrants.
Some on the far right might never forgive Rubio for his “amnesty” heresy, despite a retooled approach that calls for implementing verified border security measures before relief for 11-12 million illegal immigrants is examined. But now, on the eve of his presumed White House launch, Rubio, 43, finds himself among the hottest tickets in a gradually expanding GOP field.
His foreign policy fluency, the product of passion and four years of study on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, led Rubio back from the political brink. Republicans see the world in crisis and the U.S. flailing under President Obama’s velvet leadership. Rubio perhaps more than any in his party has given voice to that anxiety, and assuaged it by offering a vision that returns the U.S. to its role as the globe’s indispensable superpower.
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