Marco Rubio's Silver Tongue

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Oct. 5 2011 4:43 PM

Marco Rubio's Silver Tongue

Marco Rubio's hype is more than a freshman senator can really live up to. When you talk to Republican strategists, it's all but assumed that Rubio will be the next Republican nominee's running mate. (Yeah, he's said he won't do it. Barack Obama said he wouldn't run for president. So did Rick Perry. Dick Cheney said he wouldn't be vice president.) Rubio's been responding to this with the old Clinton/Obama model of Senate profile management -- not sticking his neck out much, not doing a ton of interviews.

But his short Ideas Forum Q&A with Major Garrett was impressive.

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Focus on the immigration answer. Rubio avoids getting bogged down in the issue -- one he's been seen as a moderate on, especially after his 2010 Senate win became inevitable. He finds a soft, comfortable couch in between the Romney and Perry positions on illegal immigrants and college tuition. Frankly, he sounds a lot like the 2008 vintage Barack Obama, who blamed the impasse on Washington incompetence. "When I was elected in 2000, through 2003 and 2004," said Rubio, "the immigration issue wasn't a big issue."

How to deal with tuition? It's complicated.

So here's a kid who's now 18 years old, but they arrived when they were two. Their parents brought them. They didn't come -- their parents brought them. They came in legally. But their visas experied. Their parents didn't renew them, for whatever reason. These kids have grown up here their entire lives. They're 18 now, and they can't go to college. Now here's the rub? If that kid is 6'7'' and can dunk a basketball, or throw a 95 mph fast pitch, we're gonna find a way to keep them, right? But if the kid has a 4.0 GPA, you're gonna deport 'em?

Good answer! I don't know what the policy response is, which is the point.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter.