Just in case you weren't sure, Florida Tea Party leadership says they still love Marco Rubio

Leary's story centered on the various levels of angst felt by some Republicans about Rubio's stance on illegal immigration, which remains a major issue in the U.S., especially among hardline conservatives.

Rubio has disappointed some of his supporters (and a great deal of Latinos) by his lack of advocacy for the Dream Act, the most mainstream piece of legislation that pro-immigration advocates have attempted to get passed through Congress in recent years. That bill would grant illegal immigrants who have completed at least two years of college or served honorably for at least two years in the U.S. Armed Forces to get a chance of qualifying for permanent legal residency status (It failed in the Senate 55-41, right before Christmas last year, with the man Rubio succeeded in office, George LeMieux, voting no).

But as Leary reports, there are some on the right who still don't fully trust Rubio to be strong against illegal immigration, because of stories that when he served as House Speaker in Florida, he scuttled bills that tried to deal with the issue.

Two Tea Party members in the story, Danita Kilcullen from Fort Lauderdale, and George Fuller from Sarasota, speak disparagingly of Rubio in the story. There are other dissenting voices in the piece, but they come from Numbers USA, an advocacy group that works for immigration levels.

But those two critical voices were too much for others in the Florida Tea Party. Sunday night a press release was issued out by Tom Gaitens from Florida FreedomWorks, who said that since Rubio has served in Washington, the bond and mutual respect between the party and the Senator "has grown stronger than ever," and said any reporting to the contrary was either "sloppy" or "intentionally misleading."

“The Tea Party loves Marco Rubio because he has the character and the courage to do the right thing and stick to his principles, no matter what,” explains Ron McCoy, a co-founder of the West Orlando Tea Party. “Just the mention of Rubio’s name at one of our meetings recently was met with resounding applause — and, he wasn’t even in the room.”

Most importantly, Senator Rubio has time and again proven to the Tea Party Movement that his decisions and his votes are not motivated by self serving political expedience or affected by pressure from special interest groups. What drives Rubio’s decisions is his belief in and adherence to the core principles and values which are the bedrock of the Tea Party Movement: (1) Limited Constitutional Government; (2) Fiscal Responsibility In Government; and (3) Free Markets.

“Fiscal responsibility in government and constitutionally limited government are larger and more critical to our nation’s future than any one single special interest issue could ever be,” says Jason Hoyt, a leader of the Central Florida Tea Party Council. “Marco Rubio appears to understand that by putting these core values ahead of all other interests in the national debate is the only way for our country to preserve its God given freedoms and reduce our overwhelming burden of debt.”

The push back is instructive, as the powers that be in the Florida Tea Party movement are quickly trying to shut down the possibility that a few members have some issues with the Senator on the vexing immigration situation.

But one could logically say: why doth they protest so much? Admittedly, it's two people of a vibrant political movement in this state, a movement that did help elect a senator (Rubio) and a governor (Rick Scott).

As one of 100 senators, Rubio's influence on anything as significant and controversial in the Senate frankly is suspect, though he is by far the most high profile legislator there (though Rand Paul gets his fair share of press as well). Naturally, being Cuban-American, there is tendency to look at Rubio to see where he's at on the issue - will he side with those in the Latino movement who are hoping for a more liberal policy than is currently the case? Doubtful, since all Rubio needs to do is study the case of the man who was elected to the seat that he has now succeeded, Mel Martinez, who became a pariah in his own party when he attempted to help streer a comprehensive immigration bill through the Senate in 2007. So does he then go hardcore conservative, ingratiating himself with those in the party who support that stance, yet distancing himself from some of his "own" people (or are you forgetting the abuse that Miami state Senator Anitere Flores got this year for her supporting an illegal immigration bill?)

Meanwhile with the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in favor of states being able to make their own immigration laws, you can bet that there will be a move to do so again in Florida, which ended its session earlier this month without such a bill,. Among the many reasons that happened was because J.D. Alexander is the CEO of an agriculture company, and like many business owners, loathes using E-Verify, the federal register that employers can use to verify if an employee is of legal status.


Although the ascendancy of both Marco Rubio and the Tea Party's influence in Florida (and national) politics occurred nearly simultaneously, the now freshman Republican Senator has always kept his alliance with those fervent grass roots activists at a certain distance.

He's never been critical of the group, but has always maintained to national political reporters that his conservative political philosophy transcends being labeled (as the NY Times Magazine attempted to do a year and a half ago). In fact, in retrospect, though Rubio has been tied to the tea party for well over a year, it's Florida's Governor, Rick Scott, who since his election victory has rushed to be in their clutches, which is certainly meaningful as those activists now represent his hardcore base at this still young phase of his candidacy.

So when Alex Leary of the St. Pete Times, in writing a story on Sunday about Rubio's stances on the immigration issue, quoted a couple of tea party folks of speaking critically towards their golden boy, higher ups in the movement fired back Sunday night, denouncing the piece as being "a typical Progressive Left narrative."

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