Rubio's made his bed with the Teabagger crowd now, and the price he's going to have to pay will be steep. While Rubio may be walking a fine line on immigration in a state like Florida, he will be expected to take a much more hard right line denouncing illegal immigrants.
As an underdog U.S. Senate candidate courting the GOP's conservative wing, Marco Rubio takes a hard-line position against illegal immigration: no amnesty.
But as the powerful speaker of the Florida House, presented with a slew of bills aimed at curbing illegal immigration, he didn't put a single proposal up for a vote.
``A lot of us are mad at him because he did block those bills,'' said David Caulkett, a founder of Floridians for Immigration Enforcement. ``Rubio claims to be anti-amnesty, but the question is, `Do we trust him?' .''
Rubio says he hasn't wavered in his opposition to granting citizenship to illegal immigrants but that the issue should be dealt with by the federal government, not the states. The Legislature was focused on tax and insurance reform on his watch, he said.
``We picked one or two key issues,'' Rubio said in a recent interview. ``States can't solve illegal immigration.''
Rubio's record on immigration is under scrutiny now that the issue is on his agenda and his bid against Gov. Charlie Crist for the Republican nomination is gaining ground. Immigration was nowhere to be found in the book of 100 Innovative Ideas for Florida's Future he compiled as House speaker; now it's among nine issues addressed on his campaign website.
The son of Cuban exiles born in Miami says he opposed the proposal spearheaded in 2006 by former Sen. Mel Martinez -- whose early retirement triggered Rubio's 2010 campaign -- that would have allowed illegal immigrants to work toward citizenship. Crist supported the bill.
On the campaign trail, Rubio sometimes refers to ``illegal aliens,'' a term some immigrant advocates find offensive.
``His tone has changed on the subject, and to me it's very obvious that it's for political reasons,'' said state Rep. Juan Zapata of Miami, a Crist supporter and an executive committee member of the National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators.
The Teabaggers want Rubio to be their point man on getting rid of illegals in the country. Simply saying "no amnesty" and punting to the Feds on the issue won't be good enough for his new friends. They are going to want him to use the "D" word -- deportation.
In Florida politics, that's suicidal. But hey, Marco Rubio is going to have to do a lot of things he's not going to be fond of for his new best friends. After all, when you make a deal with the Devil, the Devil always gets his due.