Poll: Rubio’s popularity with GOP voters drops amid immigration push

Sen. Marco Rubio's (R) popularity with Republican voters has taken a significant hit in recent months as the Florida lawmaker worked to sell the Gang of Eight's comprehensive immigration reform bill, according to a new survey by Rasmussen.

Rubio is now viewed favorably by 58 percent of Republican voters, down 10 percentage points from May and 15 points from February. The survey also found that 16 percent of Republican voters viewed Rubio unfavorably, while a quarter of Republican voters are undecided.

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The numbers emphasize the difficult tightrope act the Florida lawmaker must walk. Political observers say Republicans will struggle to retake the White House if they cannot win over Latino voters, who backed President Obama by a greater than two-to-one margin in 2012. But while Rubio, who is believed to have presidential aspirations, sees the political advantage of his immigration push, he also risks alienating the conservative base that will be central to winning the party's nomination.

At an anti-immigration reform rally held by Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) last week at the U.S. Capitol, attendees regularly booed mention of Rubio. Protestors have picketed his Florida congressional offices, and a Quinnipiac University poll released last week shows a plurality of voters disapproved of his handling of the immigration issue.

Conservative firebrand Ann Coulter said last week that Republicans in the House should not take up immigration reform until the Senate was "Rubio-free," and former Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.) said he might give the senator a primary challenge in two years.

But Rubio has continued to engage his critics on the right in an attempt to win them over to support the bill he helped draft. In an op-ed for Human Events published Monday, Rubio said that while "in a perfect world" he would not need to support such an immigration bill, America's system was "painfully and dangerously broken."

"Here’s the reality of it: the choice before us is to try to fix this, or leave it way it is and risk an even bigger problem due to Washington’s inaction," Rubio wrote. "What we have today is a disaster of epic proportions."