Rubio’s change of heart also came after Democrats, including Soto on a Tuesday conference call organized by the Democratic National Committee — the day after the Senate’s Aponte vote — cast his opposition as a slight against a key constituency in Florida politics: Puerto Ricans in the I-4 corridor.
“He won a statewide election, he knows the growing strength of the Puerto Rican vote, he knows the volatility and swing nature of that vote,” said Susan MacManus, a political science professor at the University of South Florida in Tampa.
McManus said that the up-for-grabs nature of that electorate stems from the fact that most are from the Caribbean island in contrast to the Northeast U.S., which tends to be more liberal.
“It’s a community that really is very much insistent on interfacing with candidates,” McManus said. “I am sure that Rubio knows that the Republican Party is putting a lot of the burden of carrying the Hispanic vote [in the 2012 election] on his shoulders, and I think that the realization that was a growing and burgeoning portion of the electorate probably ended up turning him.”
Rubio’s switch also came as the issue made its way into Florida and Puerto Rican media.
Terri Henderson, 6, center, whose mother is El Salvador, attends a rally with members of Congress at Union Station's Columbus Circle to announce the Restore Opportunity, Strengthen, and Improve the Economy (ROSIE) Act on July 29, 2014. The legislation provides incentives for government contractors to pay a living wage and other benefits that would help low-income workers.