ORLANDO -- Sen. Marco Rubio knew it was coming, and it did — shouts and jeers from conservative activists over his role in immigration reform.
“Build the fence!” a man yelled as Rubio took the stage Friday at the Americans for Prosperity conference in Orlando. “No amnesty!” several people shouted throughout his address.
But the reception from the crowd of 1,500 was mostly enthusiastic for Rubio, who used his speech to denounce big government and Obamacare, the mention of which brought people to their feet.
Rubio also got loud applause when he criticized the Common Core education standards, which have come under assault form tea party activists who see the standards as a federal takeover. By extension, Rubio was jabbing at his mentor, former Gov. Jeb Bush, who is a major backer of Common Core and has worked to defend against the critics.
Rubio never mentioned immigration, but it was on the mind of many. He was one of eight senators who crafted a wide-ranging bill that would spend tens of billions on border security while also providing a pathway to citizenship for as many as 11 million undocumented residents, provided they pay fines and meet other standards.
“He lied about his position on amnesty,” said Jon Moseley, an activist from Lake Placid, Fla., referring to Rubio’s hard-line stance on immigration during his 2010 Senate campaign. “Now he’s the main face of amnesty.”
Bill Garner, 62, drove down from Georgia to attend the two-day conference. He said he once considered Rubio his No. 1 leader of the GOP. “I was strong on him for a long time, but I’m concerned right now because of immigration. It hurt hard.”
LeAnne King, a tea party member from Jacksonville, was likewise disappointed, but she attributed it to Rubio’s youth. “I haven’t given up on him,” she said. “Ask me in a week, ask me in a month.”