On Monday, conservative kingmaker Rush Limbaugh suggested he would lead the charge against a comprehensive immigration reform push from President Obama and a bipartisan group of senators, including Republican star Marco Rubio (R-Fla.). On Tuesday, Limbaugh took the unusual step of having Rubio on his radio show — and Rubio slew him, says Jon Ward at The Huffington Post. Limbaugh and his conservative talk radio colleagues were a big reason the 2006-07 push for an immigration overhaul failed, and this was the big test for reform proponents of the new legislative effort. "It probably could not have gone better." Limbaugh started out with some tough questions, but by the end he was gushing, "What you are doing is admirable and noteworthy," and apparently voicing support for the border-security-first bipartisan Senate bill as an alternative to whatever Obama has in mind.

By that logic, Limbaugh is essentially OK with the five-page outline released yesterday by Rubio and the other senators, and sees his job now not as defeating any bill, but as defeating the president's effort to undermine the Senate initiative. Limbaugh in league with Chuck Schumer, the New York Democratic senator? Limbaugh may not see it that way, but that is where the logic of his argument leads to.... He sent Rubio off with a blessing that sounded like a conferral of the Reagan mantle on the 41-year-old senator's shoulders. [Huffington Post]

From all appearances, "Limbaugh was basically sold" on Rubio's pitch, says David Weigel at Slate. But remember, Rubio is in a special category among Republican opinion makers: "They want to win the presidency, and they think he's got what it takes to do it." That could explain why Limbaugh went easy on Rubio: Conservatives simply "don't want to make him look bad!"

No. Limbaugh is going soft on amnesty, says Paul Mirengoff at PowerLine. And what happens if "Rubio's effort to bring about amnesty and a path to citizenship for millions of illegal immigrants succeeds?" Democrats will win "permanent political supremacy." That may be good for business for Limbaugh, but it's terrible for the GOP, and America. 

Rubio has been designated by the Senate's immigration leftists — Schumer, [Dick] Durbin, [John] McCain, and [Lindsey] Graham — as the man who will sell to conservatives their agenda of amnesty and a path to citizenship for illegal aliens. Rubio appears to have done a good sales job on Limbaugh.... Rush seems to be suggesting that Republicans should support legislation that includes amnesty and a path to citizenship in order to rebut Obama's claims that Republicans are racist. In my view, Republicans shouldn't be cowed into supporting bad ideas in order to avoid charges that the Democrats will always level, based on one pretense or another, against them. [PowerLine]

This is surely a big bait-and-switch act from the Right, says Steve M. at No More Mister Nice Blog. "The Republican plan, I think, is to fake support for immigration reform, while looking for excuses to vote no," and Rubio provided himself a handy escape hatch by telling Limbaugh he's opposed to any bill that isn't tough enough on border security. "The folks at Wingnut Central have clearly told Limbaugh that even he has to seem to be on board, or at least potentially on board." That way they can accomplish the political goal of seeming receptive to a big immigration deal, "then, I think, to make it fail, while trying to pin the failure on Democrats."

No, nobody in the fight has "more to gain (or lose) than" Rubio, says Chris Cillizza at The Washington Post. That's why he's "working the conservative pundit ranks," trying to sell immigration and avoid George W. Bush's failure to get the GOP base on board. Rubio already tamed Fox News' Sean Hannity and radio host Mark Levin, but Limbaugh would easily be his biggest catch. Rubio allies say the Cuban-American lawmaker had little choice to step in, since getting the GOP to rethink its stance on immigration is one of his core issues. And, they know, he can push the bipartisan bill to the right. But there's also self-interest at play.

What Rubio is clearly hoping for is to be seen among the GOP smart set as the sort of Republican who is able to take on big challenges and work across the aisle with Democrats all while — and this is critically important to his political future — retaining his core conservative principles. It's a delicate balancing act but one that Rubio can't go back on now that he has stepped out on the high wire. Slip and there is no political net below to catch him. Make it to the other side and his cache within the party — already high — will soar. [Washington Post]