In an effort to help the Republicans gain some much needed votes among Latinos, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio told his party to tone down its hard-edged stance on immigration. The Florida senator said that the GOP should not be labeled as the anti-immigration party and criticized the inflammatory rhetoric used by some of the party’s presidential candidates.
“The Republican Party should not be labeled as the anti-illegal immigration party. Republicans need to be the pro-legal immigration party,” Rubio said.
Rubio’s words are seen by some as a bit of political maneuvering in the lead-up to next year’s presidential elections, as he tries to appeal to the growing Latino voter base while not alienating the more conservative elements of the Republican Party who ushered him into office in 2010. His vocal stance could also signal Rubio’s desire for a vice-presidential spot despite previously denying that he wants to be on the ticket.
The Republican Party should not be labeled as the anti-illegal immigration party. Republicans need to be the pro-legal immigration party.
“It’s safe to say that he (Rubio) feels an incentive to build up his image,” said Stanford University political science professor Gary M. Segura told the Miami Herald. A recent poll by Suffolk University indicated that if Rubio were on the presidential ticket the Republican candidate would win Florida – an always contentious state in the presidential elections.
Segura said that Republicans need to perform well in Latino-heavy states such as Florida, Texas and New Mexico if they want to beat President Obama in next year's election. In August 72 percent of Latinos said that Republicans either don’t care or were hostile toward the Hispanic community, according to a Latino Decisions tracking poll.
“The rhetoric raises the attention of the rank-and-file voter of what’s being done on the policy level,” Segura said. “Even if you get rid of all the nasty things you say, there is what you do.”
Rubio has argued that the federal government needs to modernize its legal immigration system and has proposed certain changes to the visa system which would allow high academic achievers to stay in the U.S. or to bring in job creators. He has also said that there could be an improvement to the guest worker program.
“It’s good Rubio is stepping out, but it has to be followed by action. His actions in the Senate haven’t matched this new rhetoric,” Tyler Moran, policy director for the National Immigration Law Center, told the Miami Herald.
In Florida the Cuban-American politician is extremely popular. Forty nine percent of those surveyed in Florida said they approve of Rubio's job performance as senator, while 29 percent disapprove -- the same as previous polls, with a slight dip in his disapproval ratings.
52 percent of those surveyed said they liked the way he was "handling his job."
The Quinnipiac University poll also indicated that 46 percent of those asked would vote for a nominee that chooses Rubio as their vice-president, as opposed to 41 percent who would pick a Obama-Biden ticket.