Sen. John McCain told his hometown newspaper, The Arizona Republic, that Florida Sen. Marco Rubio would be a strong Republican presidential candidate should he run in 2016.
At the beginning of the year, tMcCain's comments would have been self-evident.But, now that Rubio and McCain helped pass an immigration-reform plan through the Senate, many conservative commentators have trashed the "amnesty" and, to a slightly lesser extent, Rubio. Some in Washington have begun writing Rubio off.
“I think it’s just foolish,” McCain told The Republic on Friday. “I’m not endorsing anyone, but I can tell you Marco Rubio is an articulate spokesperson for what conservatives believe in, in principle. And if we pass immigration reform, which is certainly not clear, he would get enormous credit for it.”
Don't expect Rubio to run into the arms of McCain, who was the party's 2008 nominee. The New Yorker had an intriguing piece on the immigration-reform plan behind the scenes, and it's clear that Rubio and McCain don't always see eye to eye on tactics or policy.
Rubio endorsed Mike Huckabee in the 2008 GOP primary. Then-Gov. Charlie Crist endorsed McCain who then supported Crist over Rubio two years later. Rubio won. At the time, he was critical of McCain's immigration-reform plan that died in 2007. A number of tea partiers say the Rubio who bashed a path to citizenship as another word for "amnesty" say the junior senator has fallen under McCain's spell.
Rubio, who has gone quite about immigration as he bashes Obamacare and backs stricter abortion-control measures, has gone to great lengths to distinguish this latest immigration plan with prior Senate proposals.
McCain's fellow Arizona senator, Jeff Flake, helped craft this plan as well and said it'll only help Rubio.
“I think he has helped his chances immeasurably by being involved in the immigration debate,” Flake told The Republic. “In the end, Republicans are going to want to win in the general election, and I think they will recognize that we’ve got to have somebody who can do that."