Perhaps the least surprising political news today is this item, reported by Huffpost’s Luke Johnson:

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), a member of the bipartisan “gang of eight” authoring comprehensive immigration reform, said Tuesday that the bill does not have the votes to pass the Senate.

“I think even the Democrats would concede that,” he said on “Fox and Friends.” “One of the things we’ve learned over the last few weeks — through the open process that happened through the committee process and all the public input that we’ve gotten — is how little confidence people have that the federal government will enforce the law.”

He added, “I’m optimistic something good for our country can happen, but it needs to happen the right way.”

Well, some Democrats might “concede” Rubio’s pessimistic math, but the Democrat in charge of scheduling floor action, Harry Reid, has flatly contradicted that vote-count. You have to figure Rubio wants changes in the bill that could produce more Republican votes, whether they are needed or not, to (a) give him more “cover” and (b) associate himself with a more conservative-friendly bill.

After all, this isn’t just about the laws and policies governing immigration. It’s about 2016, and Rubio’s juggling act in getting Establishment Republican credit for securing a change of image essential to party “rebranding,” while convincing conservatives he’s still their guy.

UPDATE: Looks like Reid isn’t inclined to give Rubio extra time to criticize his own legislative handiwork and insist on conservative-pleasing changes. He’s announced the Senate will begin debate on the immigration bill (without, it appears, a “motion to proceed” filibuster) next week.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.