Following election soul-searching by the Republican party on how to better reach Latino voters, Florida Senator Marco Rubio has been front and center for the GOP. He has made a high-profile trip to Iowa, where any prospective presidential primary candidate must first cut their teeth, was part of the bipartisan “Gang of 8” Senators working on immigration reform and now he will deliver the Republican response to Obama‘s State of the Union address.
“I’m honored to have this opportunity to discuss how limited government and free enterprise have helped make my family’s dreams come true in America,” Rubio said in a statement.
House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) announced the selection ahead of the speech on February 12, which Rubio will deliver in English and Spanish.
“Marco Rubio is one of our party’s most dynamic and inspiring leaders. He carries our party’s banner of freedom, opportunity and prosperity in a way few others can. His family’s story is a testament to the promise and greatness of America,” said Speaker Boehner. “He’ll deliver a GOP address that speaks from the heart to the hopes and dreams of the middle class; to our party’s commitment to life and liberty; and to the unlimited potential of America when government is limited and effective.”
While Rubio will mention immigration, that won’t be the focus of his speech. “His speech will focus on the Republican Party’s agenda to grow the middle class,” a Rubio aide says. “Immigration will likely be mentioned as one way to grow the economy, but the speech really is about the Republican Party’s commitment to limited government as the best way to help the middle class, and how it differs from the President’s plans for bigger government.”
Stephen Nuño, professor of political science at Northern Arizona University and NBC Latino contributor says Rubio represents an opportunity for a Republican party, which has been searching for an effective messenger to the Latino community.
“Senator Rubio has emerged within the Republican Party as an effective communicator to conservatives on immigration,” he says. ” As he, or if he, matures within the leadership he will have to use those skills to help the Republican Party sell their ideals to Latinos. The GOP essentially has nobody who can do this, today.”