When Marco Rubio strides to the podium on February 12 to give the GOP response to President Obama‘s State of the Union address, he will be the first Latino to do so for the Republican party and the first Republican to give a bilingual speech. In the past, a Spanish-speaking language member is chosen to give the response for Spanish-language media.
Spanish-language media will receive an embargoed copy of the speech and be able to air it at the same time the English-language networks air Rubio’s response.
The gestures are seen by many as overt outreach to the Hispanic community, which was largely turned off by the Republican party in the 2012 election, and overwhelmingly supported Obama.
“I think it’s an excellent development on behalf of the Republican party,” says Arturo Vargas, executive director of the National Association of Latino Elected Officials (NALEO). “It just shows the importance of Latinos in American politics that both parties are reaching out to Latinos who consume media in both English and Spanish.
Vargas notes that Obama has already done this well.
“The president himself has been on Spanish-language media more than any other president I can recall,” he says. “I think Republicans have noticed that they have to play in that space as well.”
Rubio who is the subject of 2016 presidential whispers after a trip to Iowa and is a member of the high-profile bipartisan “Gang of 8″ Senators working on immigration reform, is seen as key to a Republican party renaissance, in part because he may be able to reach Hispanic voters.
“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.
While Rubio will mention immigration, the topic will not 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.”