Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush, Immigration, and 2016

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On the Democrat’s side of the aisle, the presidential rumor mill is all abuzz with Hillary Clinton, who has thus far refused to say whether or not she will run. For Republicans, the most noise has been surrounding Jeb Bush, in part for name recognition and in part because of his unique take on immigration. Bush said that for many immigrants coming into the U.S. illegally, they were performing an “act of love” for their families. “It’s an act of commitment to your family,” he told The Washington Post.

Marco Rubio is a second name that’s floated around the Republican party, and one with similarly dissident ideas on immigration from many in his party. Some suggest that his ties to former mentor Jeb Bush might be a dissuading factor in his running for the same position. Rubio hasn’t announced any certainty regarding a run in 2016, but did make it clear that neither his nor Jeb Bush’s plans would be altered by the other. “In terms of my decision-making for next year, it will be based on me — not on anybody else. And I think that’s true for anyone thinking about it — including himself,” he said to Politico when asked whether his political guide’s competition might act as a negative to his running. “It’s not that unusual to see people who have been allies in the past end up running for an office like that,” said Rubio.

Between the two, Bush has a clear advantage in terms of experience — though he’s been out of office for a time now — but both have an immigration quandary in front of them. Bush’s interview with The WP has circulated to the disapproval of hard liners in the Republican party, and Rubio has also made enemies within his party due to his historical position on immigration in Congress. Tea Party members were especially displeased with Rubio’s backing of the Gang of Eight’s immigration reform bill in the Senate, which allowed for a degree of amnesty. Unsurprisingly, the bill didn’t pass in the Republican controlled House of Representatives where the right is in favor of smaller single steps towards reforming immigration.

But if one thing can be said for Bush over Rubio, Bush’s position is at least cemented to a degree on where it sits. His sentiments didn’t commit him to any one agenda, but indicated a somewhat softer stance than others in his party. In that sense, it’s easier for Bush to give a steady position in general than for Rubio to continue to commit to specific policy that won’t be passed by his party anyway. Bush has the advantage of being out of office at present, while Rubio still has plenty of time still left in Congress. It initially may have made some sense for Rubio to attempt comprehensive reform; business interests and members of the Republican electorate have been placing a great deal of pressure on the party to pass reform for an extended time.

Members of both parties hit spectacular lows in Congressional approval according to Gallup at 17 percent approval for Republicans, 11 percent for Independents, and 14 percent for Democrats — in all likelihood a result of gridlock in Congress on everything up to and including immigration. Passing comprehensive reform would certainly have been a plus for Rubio with some voters and it would have given him a boost with Hispanic voters with whom Republicans tend not to fair well. Instead, Rubio now looks inconsistant on immigration, having committed himself to a comprehensive reform only to flip flop when the bill failed in the House, a logical switch given the upcoming midterms and the definitive refusal from other members of Congress. Sticking his neck out further makes very little sense strategically at this point.

Even having changed his tune, Rubio joins Jeb Bush in a possible advantage with Hispanic voters in 2016, should they choose to run. According to a Gallup poll from 2013, Democrats still hold a majority of Hispanic loyalties, with all age groups at least twice as likely to lean Democratic as Republican. Hispanic populations within the U.S. are rising, and this includes a population capable of voting legally, as well as an age group that is nearing the voting cut off. What’s more, Republicans are well aware of the role that Hispanic voters are likely to play in upcoming elections and of the need to appeal to the demographic on more than just economic policy to gain their votes.

It is imperative that the RNC [Republican National Committee] changes how it engages with Hispanic communities to welcome in new members of our Party,” reads the RNC’s Growth and Opportunity Project for improving future campaigns for the party after the 2012 election. “If Hispanic Americans hear that the GOP doesn’t want them in the United States, they won’t pay attention to our next sentence … In essence, Hispanic voters tell us our Party’s position on immigration has become a litmus test, measuring whether we are meeting them with a welcome mat or a closed door.”

Neither Bush nor Rubio are exactly welcome mats on immigration — though particularly hyperbolic opponents might hazard such claims — but it’s arguable that they aren’t completely closed doors, and this is to their advantage. After all, not only are they more likeable to a wider variety of demographics, but despite angering a far right section of their party, they become more attractive candidates purely through the merit of having stronger chances of winning an election against Democrats.

So will they run? Neither is ruling the possibility out, and both are dropping strong hints. But as with most 2016 candidates, they aren’t committing to anything. When asked if he was ready to become president, Rubio said, according to Time, that he was — noting his 14 years in office, his age, and his “clear vision of where the country needs to go” and “how to get there.” He qualified that statement by adding that, “We’re very blessed in our party to have a number of people that fit that criteria,” stating that a number of people are ready to become president within the Republican party. Jeb Bush said that he’s “thinking about running for president” in late April.

Rubio has also expressed a strong opinion on climate change. As the Wall St. Cheat Sheet reported last month, he has expressed his disbelief that humans have had any harmful impact on the climate, while he announced that he was considering a presidential run.

“I do not believe that human activity is causing these dramatic changes to our climate the way these scientists are portraying it,” Rubio told ABC. “I don’t agree with the notion that some are putting out there, including scientists, that somehow, there are actions we can take today that would actually have an impact on what’s happening in our climate.” His views on the science are straightforward: “What they have chosen to do is take a handful of decades of research and … say that this is now evidence of a longer-term trend that’s directly and almost solely attributable to man-made activity.”

The effect that his skepticism would have on his policy preferences is similarly clear. “I do not believe that human activity is causing these dramatic changes to our climate the way these scientists are portraying it … And I do not believe that the laws that they propose we pass will do anything about it, except it will destroy our economy,” said Rubio, per ABC. The Environmental Protection Agency’s recent win on state coal regulation in the Supreme Court would be one item Rubio would likely take issue with. “The policies coming out of Washington are taking our country in the wrong direction,” said Rubio after the Supreme Court ruling, according to USA Today. “[T]he last thing Florida families and businesses need is unaccountable bureaucrats imposing an energy tax through regulation that will increase electricity and gasoline prices.”

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