Sen. Marco Rubio, the 40-year-old rising star of the Republican Party and among top contenders to be Gov. Mitt Romney’s running mate, is trying to rebrand himself from a right-wing Cuban-American politician to a center-right Hispanic one.
That’s the impression I got after interviewing him at length on immigration and U.S.-Latin American relations last week.
During the interview, Rubio — who, if picked to be on the ballot in November would become the first Hispanic on a presidential ticket — stayed a prudent distance from the most extreme foreign policy stands of his hard-line Republican colleagues in Congress.
On immigration, Rubio, opposes President Barack Obama’s proposed Dream Act that would give a path to citizenship to more than 1 million college-bound students who were brought to this country as children by no fault of their own. But in the interview, he stressed his new proposal to draft a bill that would give these youths legal residency, but no citizenship. He said “a little bit more compassion is needed” for these undocumented youths.
Asked whether Romney hasn’t alienated Latinos by wholeheartedly embracing Arizona’s anti-immigration law and calling for the “self-deportation’’ of undocumented residents — a euphemism for what many see as making their lives impossible in order to force their departure — Rubio made various verbal pirouettes to avoid criticizing his party’s presumptive nominee.