- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 6, 2016

A national tea party group on Wednesday endorsed Sen. Marco Rubio’s re-election bid, saying the Florida Republican is the strongest conservative in the GOP field despite missteps on the issue of immigration.

Jenny Beth Martin, head of the Tea Party Patriots Citizens Fund, said that the good that Mr. Rubio has done in the Senate outweighs the bad and that he has learned his lesson on immigration.

“I am pleased to announce on behalf of our 1.4 million members and supporters that Tea Party Patriots Citizens Fund is proud to endorse Sen. Marco Rubio for reelection,” Ms. Martin said in a news release. “We urge all our members and supporters in the state to make a plan to be a voter for him in the August 30 primary election, and in the November general election.”

Ms. Martin said Mr. Rubio’s re-election would help ensure Senate Republicans defend their majority and prevent the confirmation of a liberal justice to replace late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

Mr. Rubio’s rode the support of tea partiers  into office in 2010, vowing to oppose amnesty for illegal immigrants.

But he went on to support an immigration deal that would have granted a quick path to legal status for illegal immigrants, as well as a path to citizenship — angering tea partiers and grass-roots conservative activists.

“Let’s be frank: That mistake hurt him with tea party activists in Florida, and across the nation,” Ms. Martin said. “But he now says he recognizes the difficulty of dealing with such an issue in a comprehensive fashion, and instead supports a one-at-a-time approach — first, implement real border security, and don’t make any further moves until the public agrees that our borders are secure.

“Then, and only then, will we be able successfully to move on to other aspects of the immigration reform agenda,” she said.

Polls show that Mr. Rubio has a large lead in the GOP primary race.

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