Well, I obviously gave Donald Trump too much credit in my posting before Thursday's Republican debate in Houston. I'd assumed it would be difficult for the other candidates to successfully go at Trump over his widespread use of guestworkers because they all want even more guestworkers than we have now (except for Cruz, who recently backpedalled a little). Or, as Fred Bauer put it: "Attacking Trump on ‘H’ Visas Will Be Difficult for Candidates Who Support ‘H’ Visas".
But I guess Rubio counted on Trump's utter lack of preparation to avoid a counterpunch on Rubio's own support for massive increases in immigration, including guestworkers. Here's what Rubio said (emphasis added):
And so even today, we saw a report in one of the newspapers that Donald, you've hired a significant number of people from other countries to take jobs that Americans could have filled.
My mom and dad – my mom was a maid at a hotel, and instead of hiring an American like her, you have brought in over a thousand people from all over the world to fill those jobs instead.
Rubio's shamelessness is breathtaking, but fortune favors the bold. Not only did Trump not take the opportunity to deflect attention by gutting Rubio like a fish, as he could have. He actually went into full Jobs Americans Won't Do mode:
As far as the people that I've hired in various parts of Florida during the absolute prime season, like Palm Beach and other locations, you could not get help. It's the up season. People didn't want to have part-time jobs. There were part-time jobs, very seasonal, 90-day jobs, 120-day jobs, and you couldn't get.
Everybody agrees with me on that. They were part-time jobs. You needed them, or we just might as well close the doors, because you couldn't get help in those hot, hot sections of Florida.
And he elaborated during his second sit-down with CNN after the debate:
On the Palm Beach thing – it's very, very hard – you know Palm Beach, you probably do know Palm Beach, you may know Palm Beach, I hope you do know Palm Beach – it's hot as a pistol. You cannot get help during the season. The season goes from like October 'til March. It's almost impossible to get help. And part of the reason that you can't get – you know, American people – they want full time jobs. This is a four-month, five-month job. [An hour earlier, it had been a 90-day, 120-day job – MK] They want long-term jobs, they don't want this. So, we do hire some people, but we have to bring people in because it's the season and you can't get people. It's pretty simple. And by the way, I do it legally. You know it's done through a process. You know, we sign documents, we sign all sorts of papers, they come in totally legally, they come in from different parts of the world. But we have no choice.
I can see the bumper sticker now: "Vote Trump – Because there are jobs Americans won't do."
Cruz and Rubio finally landed some blows against Trump in this debate; Rubio's mockery was especially amusing (and unnerving for Trump), though Cruz's attacks were more serious and grounded. (I'll be voting for Cruz in Tuesday's Virginia primary, though the Center, of course, isn't involved in electoral politics.) But at this late date, the hits Trump took on his (lack of a) health care plan, tax returns, even Trump University, might not make any difference.
But the whole point of his candidacy is that he's a nationalist, that his first concern is for America and Americans; his (obviously unread) immigration plan promises to "Put American Workers First". That makes the "jobs Americans won't do" rationalizations especially damaging to his brand. We'll see if his rivals can take advantage of this weakness before Super Tuesday.