Karl Rove has recently used his various media platforms to sing the praises of Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and tout his role in the brewing debate over immigration reform. Rove and Rubio have a mutually beneficial political and financial relationship that dates back several years.
Earlier this week on Fox News' Special Report, Rove suggested that if anyone is going to unite the GOP on immigration, it will be Rubio because “he's the best communicator since Ronald Reagan.” In a separate appearance on The O'Reilly Factor, Rove lauded Rubio for laying out “an excellent set of principles” on immigration, and said “Republicans ought to give it a very clear, strong look.”
Rove has also taken his praise of Rubio to his weekly Wall Street Journal column. On February 7, Rove wrote that President Obama should “play it low-key” on immigration reform and give deference to the so-called Senate Gang of Eight, whose immigration framework “highlights the persuasive powers of Sen. Marco Rubio.” In his January 31 column, Rove argued that having Rubio “as the GOP spokesman on immigration issues will hasten the GOP recovery” with Latino voters.
Rove's support of Rubio extends beyond comparisons to Ronald Reagan on national television; his American Crossroads political groups were some of Rubio's earliest financial backers, dumping nearly $3 million (by Rove's accounting) into his 2010 Florida Senate race.
Rubio has been happy to return the favor.
According to a report by Bloomberg Businessweek, during a fundraising breakfast at the 2012 Republican National Convention, Rubio spoke along with Rove in front of “70 of the Republican Party's most influential donors.” Helping Crossroads make their sales pitch, Rubio said it was “big news” when “Karl Rove sent me a check” during his Senate race. Rubio specifically praised Crossroads GPS for running ads to support him and told donors that giving to groups like Rove's was “a patriotic endeavor”:
“That's where Crossroads GPS was helpful,” he continued, referring to American Crossroads's sister 501(c)(4) nonprofit “social welfare” organization, which may receive unlimited personal and corporate contributions from anonymous donors. “Obviously, for legal reasons, we never knew they were doing this, but you would turn on the TV and there were ads that created a clear distinction, and did so in ways that were meaningful.” Rubio added: “What I've been pleasantly blown away by is this organization's ability to both pick the right message and pick the right place to deliver that message.”
“The by-product effect to all of this is very real,” Rubio continued. “The press will try to shame you. You read all these articles--it makes it sound as if this is some sort of, you know, dirty endeavor, or wrongful thing to do. This is a patriotic endeavor.”
Rubio closed with a joke: “Did I break any laws, in that speech?” he asked, to applause.
While Rove doesn't often disclose his financial and political interests when commenting on them in the media, in Rubio's case he is (occasionally) happy to do so -- not out of any adherence to ethical standards, but to deflect challenges to his Tea Party bona fides.
Earlier this week, Rove announced the formation of the Conservative Victory Project, a group that, per the New York Times, will work “to recruit seasoned candidates and protect Senate incumbents from challenges by far-right conservatives and Tea Party enthusiasts.” After many right-wing activists and media figures called foul and accused him of betraying the Tea Party in favor of the Republican establishment, Rove appeared on Sean Hannity's Fox News show to do some damage control.
“Crossroads is second to none in our support of Tea Party candidates,” Rove boasted. “We spent $2.9 million for Marco Rubio, more than any other group.”