Rush Limbaugh has been spending a lot of time calling the new plans for an overhaul of immigration laws little more than "amnesty" for some 11 million undocumented immigrants already in this country. A lot of time, that is, except for the 15 minutes of an extremely deferential interview Tuesday with Florida Sen. Marco Rubio.
At age 41 and in just his third year in Congress, the Cuban-American Rubio is the man many Republicans believe can lead them out of the doghouse among Latino voters, and perhaps persuade moderates that his party cares about people outside of the older, white, predominantly Southern base.
He is also among the bipartisan group of eight senators backing an immigration plan that has quickly drawn a lot of fire from conservatives.
Yet the only times the word "amnesty" came up in Tuesday's interview with Limbaugh was when Rubio mentioned it himself — talking about President Reagan's immigration reform in 1986. In the end, Limbaugh had only high praise for Rubio, a darling of Tea Party conservatives and among the possible cadre of 2016 presidential candidates.
"Best to you, and good luck," Limbaugh said in closing.
Is this an indicator of how immigration might proceed? Muted criticism from Republicans because of Rubio's involvement? Or will populist opposition to a "pathway to citizenship" bubble up and come to dominate?
S.V. Dáte is the congressional editor on NPR's Washington Desk.