Washington (CNN) – Marco Rubio is on a full-court press on immigration reform.
On Thursday, when Rubio and the seven other senators who make up the bipartisan "Gang of Eight" formally introduced their comprehensive reform bill in a high-profile news conference, the first-term Republican senator from Florida did 10 interviews on conservative talk radio. That follows the four interviews he gave the previous day.
"Our current laws are dysfunctional in terms of we have a legal immigration system that's just completely broken," Rubio told Michael Medved, who hosts one of the most popular conservative radio talk shows in the country.
And Rubio launched a website called "Immigration Reform Facts," to better explain the bill and to push back against misinformation.
Of all the members of the Gang of Eight, no one has more on the line than Rubio. He's the only Republican who's considered a leader among conservatives and he's the only one of the eight senators considered a serious contender for president in 2016.
But Rubio says this isn't about politics.
"If we are doing this for political reasons, I think we'll be disappointed and it's not my motivation. My motivation is that I want to solve this problem for the country," Rubio on Thursday told Rush Limbaugh, who hosts the highest-rated talk radio program in the country.
The proposal, formally known as the "Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013," calls for a 13-year path to citizenship for those who entered the United States before 2012.
It would take 10 years for such undocumented immigrants to get a green card and then another three years to gain citizenship. Along the way, they would have to pay a fine and back taxes, and pass a background check. The legislation also mandates that there be no path to legality until it is determined that the U.S. border with Mexico is secure.
While polls indicate majority support for such an eventual pathway to citizenship, a vocal minority of conservatives call it "amnesty."
"Before lawmakers proceed with 'comprehensive' reform, it is critical for them to understand the costs to taxpayers of an amnesty that qualifies millions of unauthorized immigrants for federal benefits," wrote former Sen. Jim DeMint, president of the Heritage Foundation, one of the oldest and most influential conservative think tanks, in an op-ed Thursday in USA Today. "An amnesty of more than 10 million unauthorized immigrants will add significant costs to taxpayers."
It's a delicate dance for Rubio - he needs to lead his party, and especially its conservative base, on immigration but he can't get out too far ahead of conservatives on the issue.
Rubio is going from interview to interview, defending the bill.
"Here's the bottom line: We're not going to deport 11 million people,” Rubio told Limbaugh. “The status quo is amnesty and that's why we've come up with a process where folks have to come forward, undergo a background check, pay a fine, start paying taxes, not qualify for federal benefits and wait 11 years. And then the only thing they get is the chance to apply for a green card. They still have to qualify for it.”
“I know it's not perfect but it's a lot better than what we have right now."
After President Barack Obama won nearly three-quarters of the Latino vote in last year's presidential election, the Republican National Committee conducted a top-to-bottom review that recommended the party change its language and messaging in an attempt to better reach out to minority and younger voters.
But some Republicans say that allowing millions of illegal immigrants eventual citizenship will only dig a bigger electoral hole for the party.
Rubio disagrees, and told Limbaugh, "I am not prepared to admit that an entire population of people, because of their heritage, aren't willing to listen to our pitch on why limited government is better."
After Rubio finished his appearance, Limbaugh called him "a full conservative," but he criticized the Gang of Eight bill, saying "I'm never going to understand it."
Later in the day, Rubio joined the rest of the gang for its news conference and opened his comments with a joke about his well-publicized disagreement earlier this month with some of the other seven over the status of their proposal. To some, it sounded like Rubio was jumping ship.
"Actually, I changed my mind – no, I'm kidding," Rubio said to laughter.
Then it was off the to the floor of the Senate, where he again explained and defended the proposal, pushing back against criticism that the legislation is being rushed through Congress.
"This bill's been online already for 48 hours," said Rubio, adding that "people are going to have three to four weeks to review it."
Then Rubio entered into a lion's den at a nearby Capitol Hill-area hotel, where the Federation of American Immigration Reform, which pushes for a reduction in both legal and illegal immigration, was holding its annual immigration "Hold Their Feet to the Fire" radio row in the nation's capital.
While some high-profile conservative commentators have changed their mind on immigration since the November election, many still are dead-set again what they consider "amnesty."
Rubio was grilled by nationally syndicated radio talk show host Mike Siegel, who said he's against the bill "because it violates the law that presently exists on the books."
Rubio responded: "It's a pretty tough road. It's not perfect but I think it's better than leaving them here the way they are right now," and added it's time to "clean up this mess and make sure it never happens again."
But Siegel thinks Rubio's push on immigration could hurt him if he decides to run for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination.
"He's disappointing his base and I think it's going to hurt him politically."