Conventional wisdom says Marco Rubio’s co-sponsorship of immigration reform in 2013 doomed his presidential candidacy, allowing opponents to smear him as advocating “amnesty.”
Actually, the reform bill never authorized amnesty but did provide a difficult path to legal status – a position that most Republicans, and even bigger majorities of the general public, fully support.
Exit polls in Florida asked GOP voters how to deal with 11 million illegal immigrants: 55% said “give them a chance for legal status” while only 35% said, “deport them to their home countries.” So why didn’t Rubio win his home state? Because he never stood proudly on his own record, and seemed to duck the issue of immigration.
In Florida, even among the majority supporting the chance for legalization, Rubio only tied Trump – because these voters weren’t sure he still agreed with them. The problem for Marco Rubio, a wonderful public servant and gifted candidate, wasn’t so much “amnesty”; it was authenticity.