“There's terrible disappointment with Marco Rubio specifically,” says Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), an opponent of the Senate immigration bill that Rubio helped write and pass. [...]So, according to these guys, Rubio was guilty of a major political screwup. They don't write him off completely—after all "he's a cool guy" and can be "very articulate"—but other than Jeff Sessions, none of them even contemplate the possibility that Rubio's support for immigration reform was anything but a negative.
“He's definitely on the rehabilitation trail,” said Rep. Kenny Marchant (R-Texas). [...]
“I think if he comes out [to Iowa], he's very articulate, he talks about his conservative values, what brought him here, he can come back, there's no question,” Rep. Tom Latham (R-Iowa) said about Rubio’s chances in his early-voting primary state. [...]
“I don't think it helped him at all. But nothing ventured, nothing gained. He's a cool guy, he can recover. But he learned a big lesson,” said Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas), a former leader of the campaign operation for House Republicans. [...]
“He's just a delightful person and he's talented. If it was a negative I think he can recover from it,” said Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), a leading opponent of the Senate immigration bill.
But even though they are all eager to give Rubio advice on how he can claw his way back from the doghouse, the real question is whether Rubio actually did himself serious political damage by supporting immigration reform. The way these guys talk about it, you'd think that Rubio supporting immigration reform was the political equivalent of Joe Lieberman enthusiastically supporting Iraq in 2004. The thing is, it's not. For better or worse, Republicans still love Marco Rubio.
Today's Quinnipiac thermometer poll shows that Rubio is the third-most popular Republican they tested, trailing only Paul Ryan and Ted Cruz. Ryan's thermometer score was 68.7 among Republicans. Cruz's was 65.6 and Rubio's was 65.1.
In other words, if the Republican base is suffering through "terrible disappointment" in Marco Rubio as Jason Chaffetz claimed, they sure are doing it in a weird way. Instead of punishing him for supporting immigration reform, they continue to hold him in high esteem.
It's not just Rubio, either. Ryan, the most popular Republican (among Republicans), also supports immigration reform. And John Boehner, who has refused to bring the Senate bill up for a vote, is the least popular Republican.
These numbers don't show that supporting immigration reform is a huge positive—Ted Cruz is on the opposite side of the issue as Rubio and Ryan, yet falls in between them in popularity. But the number do show that despite what the Jason Chaffetz's of the GOP might say, supporting immigration reform isn't political kryptonite for Republicans. That's a lesson Republicans are going to need to learn if there's any chance for immigration reform to pass during this Congress.