Sen. Marco Rubio went on Rush Limbaugh's show to sell his proposal for comprehensive immigration reform on Tuesday, a day after the radio host said only he and Fox News stand can stop amnesty now, and while Rubio charmed Limbaugh, the Senator from Florida didn't win a new supporter for his immigration proposal. Rubio insisted that illegal immigrants already here wouldn't see a path to citizenship until enforcement measures were in place to limit more illegal immigration -- and that even four Democratic senators had signed an agreement endorsing enforcement triggers. Limbaugh showered Rubio with compliments, saying he was "honestly, forthrightly... seeking compromise," that he "does not fear talk radio," that he's "impressive." But those were personal assessments. Unlike other conservative pundits, Limbaugh did not find Rubio's policy all that impressive. President Obama could agree to the enforcement triggers, Limbaugh suggested, and then still fail to enforce them. Enforcement was promised in the 1986 immigration reform law, and it didn't happen. "This is a repeat," Limbaugh said. And passing immigration reform probably wouldn't win Republicans a bunch of new Latino votes, either, because that didn't happen after the 1986 law, either.
Limbaugh's callers voiced similar concerns, saying Democrats would hold onto Latino voters and were looking to get more people on government benefits. If you look at posters at FreeRepublic, they say much the same thing. "Why don’t they just call this the 'Turn Texas into a Blue State' Act? That’s what it basically is. Twenty-five million new Democrat voters," says one freeper. "Build the fence first, control the border and then we negotiate," demanded another. "We need to have some t-shirts made for the GOP. I voted for immigration reform and all I got was this T-shirt..they got 11 Million new Rat voters," another said. During the senator's radio interview, people tweeted at Limbaugh that Rubio was one of the Tea Party's worst insults: RINO.
Rubio, who is enjoying national prominence as the future of the Republican Party (at least a future), may not need the Limbaugh audience to support his cause. But another very small, but very important audience, does: the Republicans in Congress still scared at watching party stalwarts like former Sen. Dick Lugar go down to Tea Party-backed challengers. If anything is clear from today's interview, neither Rubio nor Limbaugh is giving them much cover to come out in favor of immigration reform.