As Sen. Marco Rubio prepares for a probable White House run, he’s attempting to rebuild his image with conservative Republicans following his controversial support for the immigration bill last year.
The Florida Republican has been at the forefront of pushing the Obama administration to take aggressive action against the Russians for their invasion of Ukraine, and he’s been leading the charge for strong U.S. sanctions against Venezuela after a brutal crackdown against protesters, Politico
His hawkish foreign policy statements are being viewed by political pundits as a calculated measure to highlight his leadership capability in a potential presidential race in 2016 against conservative Republican Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Ted Cruz of Texas, according to Politico.
Rubio, who plans to make a decision on seeking the GOP nomination by early 2015, was criticized last year when he backed a Senate bill offering a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants.
But he’s since backpedaled on immigration reform, and now he’s pushing other agendas that he hopes will help wary conservatives to forget his indiscretion, according to the Miami Herald
"I’m sure there are people who are unhappy with what I did on immigration and will never be supportive of me again," Rubio told Politico.
"But, by and large, I think if you look at my approval ratings in different metrics that are out there, I feel like many of my supporters maybe disagreed with me on immigration — and disagreed strongly — but they understand that I’ve been involved in other issues that are important for the country," said Rubio, who will address the annual gathering of the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington on Thursday.
He already has one influential supporter in the Senate. "I believe people will give him on one issue quite a bit of room," Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley told Politico. "He’s already eight months away from what he did on immigration, and he’s taken on so many other issues to cloud that whole issue."
Rubio spoke out last week about the Arizona bill vetoed by Gov. Jan Brewer that would have allowed business owners to refuse service to gays, saying that people should not be punished because of their religious beliefs.
But possibly looking to a White House run, he placated gay rights activists who opposed the bill by declaring that gays should not be discriminated against.
Rubio also supported Cruz in his battle last year to defund Obamacare and in recent weeks he’s fought to repeal the "insurance bailout" clauses in the Affordable Care Act, which grant the government the right to prevent unexpected losses for large insurance companies.
Rubio has denied that he’s trying to regain the trust of conservative voters and the far right in Congress.
"Which issue did I take on after immigration that I wasn’t supporting before?" he said. "I was elected here as a constitutional conservative, and all the issues that I supported before immigration and after immigration are the same ones."
Erick Erickson, founder of the Red State website, said Rubio is winning his fight to rebrand himself by "keeping his head down and allying with conservatives."
Erickson told Politico, "I think there will always be those who will never consider him because of immigration, but for most I think they’ll take a fresh look."
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