Of the octet of members that comprise the “Gang of 8″ pushing for a comprehensive immigration reform bill, none has more to gain (or lose) than Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio.

Rubio is widely seen as a 2016 Republican presidential candidate and touching immigration, which remains a, well, touchy subject among the GOP rank and file, brings real risk with it.

“This is going to be tough for Republicans and the recidivist elements in our party,” said GOP strategist Alex Castellanos, himself a Cuban-American.”It will all be fine until there is a GOP primary, say for president, and one candidate breaks out as the anti-immigration candidate and appeals to GOP fears and not hopes.”

In hopes of selling the idea to conservatives first, Rubio has been working the conservative pundit ranks on the issue for several weeks now, hoping to reverse George W. Bush’s inability to sell his own immigration reform proposal to the party’s talking heads. “What killed immigration reform when Bush ’43 tried it was radio talk,” said one veteran Republican strategist granted anonymity to speak candidly. “We don’t know if that will happen again, so far they’ve been subdued, but of course they have Obama to punch around.”

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