The tea party backlash against Sen. Marco Rubio for his stance on immigration has been covered to death. And the backlash might be, in fact, dying as the issue fades amid debates about Syria, Obamacare and the federal budget.
At the same time the conservative rage began subsiding, Rubio's media team lined up at least two mainstream-media news pieces that money couldn't buy.
The first dropped this weekend in PARADE, a newspaper insert read by an estimated 63 million Americans, making it the most-widely read magazine in the country.
"At Home with Marco Rubio's Modern Family," said the headline of the piece replete with Norman Rockwell-meets-Miami photos of the telegenic Rubios, a video package and personality-based reporting.
“It’s not about moving out of Florida; it’s about being able to go home to your family at night," the Republican told Parade. "My most important job isn’t senator. It’s father.”
"Enjoyed talking w a true football fan @marcorubio at last night's game. Today we talk politics, policy, 2016," CBS reporter Jan Crawford wrote on her Twitter account Aug. 30 with an accompanying photo at Sun Life Stadium.
To the degree Rubio lost support in conservative media, it's a good bet that mainstream coverage like this will more than compensate.
From a purely political point of view, Rubio might have gained more by backing immigration reform, taking fire from the far right only to make up ground in the center. That could pay dividends not just in a future general election but in a GOP presidential primary as well. That's if Rubio announces his candidacy, which would differ in substance and style in parts from fellow possible candidates/senators, Ted Cruz and Rand Paul.
Rubio sided with Paul and Cruz in disfavoring President Obama's call to bomb Syria, however his position appeared far more nuanced than Cruz's and less isolationist than Paul's. Rubio is more of a foreign policy hawk, and his main concern about a Syria strike is that it's too late and could do more harm than good.
But nuance doesn't always play well in media circles, and today CNN's Crossfire co-host, conservative S.E. Cupp, wrote that "Sen. Marco Rubio was for intervention in Syria for the past two years, but also just changed his mind, announcing he cannot support Obama's plan for military strikes."
A review of the past two years of Rubio's statements and press releases indicates the senator never explicitly called for "military strikes," and Cupp changed her article shortly after the matter was brought to her attention.
Rubio did say at a Brookings Institute speech last year that "we should be seeking to help the people of Syria bring him down," but unlike co-speaker and then-Sen. Joe Lieberman, Rubio didn't explictly call for bombing (he did so for Iran, however, in some circumstances). Download Brookings
Aside from turns of phrases and specifics about policy, running for political office is about image. And few things beat the pictures of the head of a telegenic family talking about the American Dream in PARADE, or a Dolphin fan rooting for the home team on CBS.