New York Times
By Maggie Haberman
December 17, 2015
In the waning days of the 2014 midterm elections, the issues of national security and immigration collided — the rise of the Islamic State and the re-emergence of Ebola created a deep sense of fear in the weeks before voters returned control of the Senate to Republicans. Thirteen months later, after the San Bernardino attacks, those issues are again intertwined.
Donald J. Trump and Jeb Bush have been the avatars for the two sides of the debate for most of the primary race so far, with the real-estate developer opposed to undocumented immigrants, and the former Florida governor representing hopes to see comprehensive immigration overhaul.
The fight between the two men still rages, as the CNN debate on Tuesday showed. And Mr. Trump has combined the issues of security, immigration and financial uncertainty more than any Republican candidate.
But Senators Marco Rubio of Florida and Ted Cruz of Texas have moved to the center of the discussion over national security and immigration. Each has scored points against the other, but on Wednesday, for the first time, Mr. Cruz sounded less-than-steady as he was pressed about an amendment he introduced in 2013 that would have provided legal status to undocumented immigrants.
Mr. Rubio, increasingly seen by establishment Republicans as their best hope, has also sought to paint Mr. Cruz as a version of Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, favoring less stringent government security programs to sweep up personal information.
Mr. Cruz has tethered Mr. Rubio to Senator Chuck Schumer, the New York Democrat, for their bipartisan effort on the immigration bill of 2013 that conservatives loathe. Mr. Rubio, whom conservative elites are quick to defend, is facing his first real scrutiny.
But so is Mr. Cruz, who has enjoyed strong support among grass-roots conservatives for two years. The two men are flying closer to the sun than they ever have before, and they risk getting singed.
And to the extent that Mr. Cruz erases distinctions between himself and Mr. Rubio on immigration, it can only benefit Mr. Trump.
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