If you’ve been following my coverage of S. 744, the immigration reform effort I’ve been calling the “Schumer-Rubio” bill, then you already know that I do not believe the legislation is good public policy.

There is no need to go over why this is so, but it is safe to say that on pretty much every policy and political point during the debate, I have strongly disagreed with Sen. Marco Rubio’s position.

That said, the Florida Republican has conducted himself like a true statesman throughout this entire campaign.

It was obvious from the beginning that supporting an immigration bill with a path to citizenship was going to be a tough and risky sell to the conservative base of the Republican Party, but Rubio took that risk.

Instead of ignoring or belittling the conservative media, Rubio enthusiastically engaged them with respect and candor. Ultimately, I think he made some promises during these interviews that may hurt his credibility down the road, but I do not believe he ever intended to deceive. If anything, the legislation he was able to produce with Democrats probably fell short of what he originally thought it would look like.

Throughout the debate, Rubio never impugned the motivations or character of his opponents. Instead, he often praised them for trying to make the bill better. This stands in stark contrast to Republican leaders of past immigration reform efforts. And when wayward staff, or other supposedly conservative allies, did disparage amnesty opponents, Rubio either admonished them or distanced himself from the attacks.

The immigration debate is far from over this year. In fact, it probably is only halftime. But so far, the debate has been far more civil and productive than it was in 2006 or 2007. Rubio’s exemplary leadership on this issue is a big reason why.