Marco Rubio won’t just give the Republican rebuttal to President Barack Obama’s State of the Union speech on Tuesday night.
The Florida Senator will give two.
One in English. Otro en Español.
It’s the first time such a high-profile speech will be given in two languages by the same person, and it’s a sign of how crucial the Rubio has become in the GOP efforts to draw more Hispanic support and rebrand the party.
“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.
“Limited government and free enterprise are the very foundation of what makes America special and separates us from the world, particularly through our strong middle-class,” he said. “I look forward to laying out the Republican case of how our ideas can help people close the gap between their dreams and the opportunities to realize them.”
For the Miami-born son of exiles, giving a bilingual speech is nothing new. He’ll give the English-language rebuttal live. The Spanish-language rebuttal will be pre-recorded.
Rubio’s emphasis on the middle-class is nothing new, although the Republican Party is embracing it more after Mitt Romney’s loss to Obama in November.
Republican Party insiders, pollsters and pundits said Romney seemed too out of touch compared with Obama.
Romney also struggled with Hispanic voters in particular, thanks in part to his positions on immigration that, critics said, had an anti-Hispanic tone. But Democrats say Republicans are struggling because of their tone as well as their ideas.
The liberal group Planned Parenthood, for instance, criticized Rubio for opposing the Violence Against Women Act. Rubio said he supports the act as written, but opposes the new measure over the way it directs states to spend domestic violence-prevention money.
As for immigration reform, Rubio has said, no single issue will bring Hispanics to the Republican Party. But, he said, the nation’s broken immigration system needs to be fixed.
Rubio belongs to a bipartisan Senate group trying to hammer out an immigration accord. Their plans resemble ones outlined by Obama in 2011, but neither one has produced legislation.
Rubio announced he supports a limited pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants as long as they pay a penalty, they don’t jump ahead of legal immigrants and the borders are secured.
Miami Rep. Joe Garcia, a Democrat, said on MSNBC that Rubio has “moved greatly on this.” And, he said, Republicans have started to change their tune. “They’ve evolved,” he said.