A lot of conservatives dislike the immigration legislation that Senator Rubio sponsored in 2013. (I’m one of them.) Will the issue doom him in the presidential primaries? I don’t think so, for three reasons.
First, only a fraction of the opponents of the bill consider it a deal-breaker. Rubio doesn’t need Ann Coulter’s vote to win the nomination. (And this fraction is further subdivided: Many of these voters will also want to wield a veto against other candidates who favor what they consider amnesty. Most of the candidates favor something that could reasonably be characterized as an amnesty. Blackballing them all will be hard.) Second, Rubio explains his record in a way that might mollify many of the soft opponents of the bill. He says that while he was making a good-faith effort, he underestimated the public’s distrust of Washington’s ability to solve the problem in one giant bill and now understands that trust in enforcement has to be earned well before any path to legalization or citizenship. Third, Rubio has not, so far as I can recall, ever shown the sanctimony on the issue of others who favored his bill. He doesn’t lecture the opponents about their alleged heartlessness.
Rubio has known this criticism is coming even longer than he knew he would be hit for missed votes. Don’t be surprised if he has a politically effective answer.