SHREVEPORT –About six years ago, in May 2009, I received an outraged email from Stacy McCain. He had just learned that the NRSC (National Republican Senatorial Committee) had endorsed Charlie Crist in the 2010 Florida Senate race fifteen months before the primary.

As you may recall, Mel Martinez was retiring and so this was an open seat which as it happens had an up-and-coming, very promising conservative Marco Rubio vying for the seat against Crist.  Rubio was just out of his former position as Speaker of the House in Florida.

A host of other conservatives, such as Michelle Malkin, Erick Erickson and John Hawkins, also were furious that the NRSC would attempt to trump the voters in a state race and endorse Crist who had by that time already shown some allegiance to Barack Obama by supporting the stimulus plan.

The NRSC endorsement ignited a grassroots campaign for the charismatic and conservative Rubio, and the Not One Red Cent blog was born.  Within two weeks the blog had already hit thousands of readers.

I was one of the writers on that blog in those early days.

I’d like to believe that our writing helped propel Rubio’s campaign as he gained momentum and eventually dominated Crist in that election.  The blog was born on May 15, 2009 with Stacy McCain doing the first thirteen posts.  My first post was number 14 on May 16, 2009.

Within the week, Carol’s Closet was on board, as was No Sheeples Here and Doug Hagin.  We picked up a few others along the way.  In May 2009, we put up fifty-seven posts on Not One Red Cent; by the end of 2009 we had posted 146 times, but by the end of the year Rubio had picked up significant steam and was crushing Crist in the polls.

What initially sold me on Rubio, my first introduction to him, was that now famous farewell speech he gave when he left the House.

That speech was 7 minutes and 23 seconds of heart-felt brilliance.  He never used a prompter and the only time he used notes was when he read a quote from John Kennedy.  In that speech, Marco Rubio spoke passionately and from the heart about American exceptionalism.  He spoke openly and freely about God, too both of which earned him a standing ovation at the end of the clip.

After the election, conservatives were elated; we’d seen a couple of years of Obama then and the future looked bleak.  Rubio’s patriotism, passion, and personal story offered hope.  There was a new breed of Republican we could lift up!  Enough of Romney, McCain, and the other retreads!

But then came the Gang of Eight bill and conservatives turned on Rubio like Caius Cassius on Julius Caesar.  Traitor!  We should have known that sneaky Hispanic would try to slip through an amnesty bill!  He lied to us!

So, when Bill Jacobson asked a couple of weeks ago, “can conservatives fall in love again with Marco Rubio?”, I was really interested to see what kind of response he got.

It wasn’t pretty; the comments were terse and definite.

“No.” 

“Nope.  He sold out when he did the amnesty deal.”

“No.  Next question…”

One comment even accused Senator Rubio of flip-flopping on his pre-election immigration stance.

So.  Let’s look at that.

In May 2009, Beth Reinhard for the Miami Herald wrote:

In response to a question about immigration, Rubio dropped his previous pleas against harsh attacks on illegal workers. He said he would not have voted in favor of the legislation — backed by Crist and Sen. Mel Martinez — that would have allowed illegal workers to earn legal status, which he called “blanket legalization.”

“Nothing is more disruptive to legal immigration than illegal immigration,” he said. “We must secure our borders.”

No blanket amnesty was his position in 2009; “Secure our borders,” he said.

But the Gang of Eight bill proposed just that – amnesty for millions of illegals before securing the border. (Nobody really believed Washington would enforce border regulations).  Traitor!

No.  No traitor.

I fully agree with Byron York’s analysis of Rubio’s Gang of Eight maneuver:  he was simply trying to get out in front of Obama’s executive action:

“Here’s my big worry,” Rubio told me during an interview while the bill was making its way through the Senate. “I fear that if this thing fails, the president will basically say to anyone in the U.S. who has been here more than three years, who has not committed a serious crime…he’ll say, ‘We’ll do for you what we did for the DREAM kids.’ And the problem with that will be you will have 10 million people legalized in the United States by executive order, so that when there is a new president, if it is a conservative, a Republican, one of the first decisions they will have to make is whether to yank that status from those people and deport them. I cannot imagine a scenario where a future president is going to take away the status they’re going to get. I believe it’s what [Obama] will do. Maybe not all 10 million, but he’ll do it for six million.”

He was 100% prescient on that.  That’s exactly what Obama is going to do. Rubio knew this before Obama threatened to use his pen and phone.  Yes, it’s an unsavory idea to give amnesty when so many others follow the rules and become citizens the right way.  I agree with you. But face it – it’s going to happen.  Obama’s got that pen and he’s going to do it.  And what Republican president is going to undo that?

It’s not that Rubio changed position on immigration so much as that Obama has forced his hand, the hand of any Republican that wants a realistic shot at regaining control of this country and righting the wrongs of the past six years (soon to be eight, and Lord only knows what the next two years hold).

I hear you:  Ted Cruz wouldn’t have made that deal!  He’d have never stood up there with Chuck Schumer, Lindsay Graham, and John McCain!

Probably not, and that’s why I don’t think Cruz, as much as I love him, stands a snowball’s chance in hell at the White House.  Just my two cents.

This is Rubio’s position today on immigration:

What I would do if I was president, the first thing I would do is, I would ask Congress to pass a very specific bill that puts in place E-Verify, an entry-exit tracking to prevent visa overstays, and improve security on the border. Once we achieve that, step two would be, we would modernize our legal immigration system, less family- based, more merit-based.

And then the third step would be to pass the bill that goes to the 10 million people that are here, or 12 million that are here illegally. If they have been for longer than a decade, they have to pass background check, they have to learn English, they have to pay taxes, they have to pay a fine. And they would get a work permit.

And after a substantial period of time in that status, assuming they haven’t violated any of the conditions of that status, they would be allowed to apply for legal residency, just like anybody else would, not a special process. And after you’re a legal resident, after a number of years, by law, you’re allowed to apply for citizenship.

It’s a long process. It’s a reasonable process. It’s a fair process. But it has to happen in that order. And it begins with serious enforcement measures.

I’ve got no problem with that.  Background check?  Yes.  Learn English?  You bet.  Pay taxes?  Absolutely.  A series of permits and applications with both an entry and an exit system?  Works for me.  Legal for a number of years before citizenship?  Yep.

And if he’s elected, can he do it?

I think he can.

So, my old friend Bill, can conservatives fall in love with Rubio again?

This one can.

I love his passion; I love his patriotism, I love his belief in American exceptionalism.  I love that he believes in the Tenth Amendment.  Issues like gay marriage or education issues should be left to the states.  He’s against Common Core.  He wants to loosen massive government regulation which now controls every aspect of our lives from light bulbs to the lunch your kid gets at school.  I love his support for Israel and his belief that we should not negotiate with Iran.  I love his quick mind and his ability to think on his feet.

For this original Not One Red Cent blogger, I still see promise in Marco Rubio and I still see the future.  I see a man that can work with both sides of the aisle; I see a man that can attract votes from all demographics.  I see a man that might look younger than he is, but has the wisdom of experience and the experience of leadership.  I see a man with a compelling personal story and a man that can rekindle a patriotism and love of country that we haven’t seen in a long, long time.

If people will listen to him, if they’ll give him a chance, if they’ll quit waiting for Reagan to rise from the grave, I think they’ll see the same things in Rubio that I saw in 2009.

Promise.

The future.

—————————–

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport.