“I think the way the Tea Party people are treating Sen. Rubio is downright shameful. I just think it’s an overreaction that’s emotionally driven that makes no sense at all,” Patton said. “If they follow through with their plans to attempt to primary him, they’re going to find out they are on the margins.”
Patton called Tea Party supporters “a relatively small but very vocal, very loud contingent” in Florida that can rightly claim credit for helping Rubio get to higher office. “They were a significant factor, they did play a role.” But Patton added, “They are not 100 percent responsible for his election.”
To Patton’s point, Rubio won 55 percent of Florida’s Latino vote in 2010, as well as a majority of a coalition made up of women, white voters, voters over 40, and people making more than $50,000 a year. A June 2013 Quinnipiac survey showed 58 percent of Floridians think undocumented immigrants should be allowed to stay in the country and given a path to citizenship with certain requirements.
“I think Rubio is going against the tide of the Tea Party on immigration, but I think he’s going with the tide of the majority of Floridians,” Patton said. “In the end, Sen. Rubio is going to be fine and if he does have national aspirations, it was a great political play for him.”