Both BuzzFeed and Breitbart have noticed something curious about Marco Rubio and this year's Republican debates. Here's BuzzFeed's Adrian Carrasquillo:
Ohio Gov. John Kasich took on Donald Trump during the debate on the Fox Business Network for his comments that millions of undocumented immigrants should be deported. Then former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush double-teamed Donald Trump, and eventually Sen. Ted Cruz jumped in to even up the sides.
But Marco Rubio? He never got tagged in at all.
The Fox Business moderators never asked him about immigration in this debate. Rubio spoke about immigration in the first Fox debate -- but he was never specifically questioned on his efforts to secure comprehensive immigration reform as a member of the "Gang of Eight":
During the first debate on Fox News Channel ... Rubio said a fence was needed on the border as well as e-verify and an entry-exit tracking system to prevent illegal immigration.
But instead of being asked about how his positions on immigration have shifted, Rubio was able to speak about one of the few slam dunks on the hot-button issue: frustration with the slowness of the legal immigration system.
Breitbart's Julia Hahn has also noticed Rubio's evasion of this issue as well:
Last night marked the fourth consecutive debate in which Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) was not asked about his signature legislative accomplishment: ushering an immigration expansion bill supported by President Obama through the Senate. Now, [Fox Business debate co-moderator Maria] Bartiromo admits it was “unfortunate” that Rubio had not been asked about his co-authorship of the Gang of Eight amnesty bill....
“I think that question [about Rubio’s co-authorship of Gang of Eight] should have been asked,” Bartiromo said on Wednesday’s The Laura Ingraham Show....
Last night Jeb Bush, John Kasich, Donald Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) sparred over immigration, yet Rubio was notably silent. Following a heated back and forth on Rubio’s signature legislative issue, WSJ moderator Gerard Baker turned to Rubio. But rather than asking him to weigh in on the topic he, as The Washington Post writes, “lobbed [Rubio] a softball,”
With factories run by robots and shopping done increasingly on smartphones, many traditional jobs are just going away. How do you reassure American workers that their jobs are not being steadily replaced by machines?
The Washington Post explains that the moderators were “effectively asking Rubio to recite the ‘economy’ portion of his stump speech.”
You can see why a panel of moderators who are all employed by the pro-immigration-reform Rupert Murdoch might be trying to help Rubio "thread the needle" by not pressing him to say something that would alienate the base. But how has Rubio lucked out in the non-Fox debates? Why isn't he being asked about his Gang of Eight moment? And will his good fortune hold?
The curious thing is that immigration hard-liners -- Donald Trump and especially Ted Cruz -- aren't hammering away at Rubio on this subject in the debates. Ross Douthat and BuzzFeed's McKay Coppins believe that Cruz is telegraphing a future attack on Rubio, in part on immigration -- but it hasn't happened yet. Here's what Coppins says:
Search the transcript of Tuesday night’s Republican presidential debate and you’ll be hard-pressed to find Ted Cruz uttering a single unkind word about his “good friend” and primary opponent Marco Rubio.
But read between the lines, and you’ll find that Cruz foreshadowed some of the attacks his campaign plans to unleash against Rubio this winter.
Without calling out his Senate colleague by name, Cruz twice took subtle digs at Rubio during the Fox Business Network debate. At one point, he warned against Republicans who would turn the GOP into “the party of amnesty” -- without specifically mentioning that Rubio had championed a bill that would have provided undocumented immigrants a pathway to citizenship.
Cruz also made a reference to sugar subsidies, which Rubio defends. So, okay, Cruz apparently intends to go after Rubio, if Coppins is right. But why not now? Why not last night? Cruz is rising in the polls as a result of his debate performances, but Rubio is rising faster. Why hold back?
Maybe Cruz wants to attack a little closer to the voting. But until he does, or another candidate does, or a debate moderator actually asks Rubio about this major event in his political life, Rubio will continue to evade the wrath of voters who hate what he used to believe in.
I believe that's what the GOP Establishment wants. I believe it's what Murdoch wants. But it can't be what Ted Cruz wants. So it's odd.
UPDATE: See also "Marco Rubio Should Thank Fox Business For His Debate ‘Win’ Last Night," at NewsHounds.
He's referring to this:
Mr. Cruz was asked Wednesday night by a reporter in Kingston N.H., if there was still a distinction between his position on immigration and Mr. Rubio’s.
“It is not complicated,” Mr. Cruz said, then paused before adding, “that on the seminal fight over amnesty in Congress, the Gang of Eight bill that was the brainchild of Chuck Schumer and Barack Obama, that would have granted amnesty to 12 million people here illegally, that I stood with the American people and led the fight to defeat it in the United States Congress.”
Mr. Cruz said: “In my view, if Republicans nominate for president a candidate who supports amnesty, we will have given up one of the major distinctions with Hillary Clinton and we will lose the general election. That is a path to losing...."
Did Cruz agree to wait to launch this attack until after the debate? And if so, why?
Crossposted at No More Mr. Nice Blog