Delivering the GOP response to the president’s State of the Union address tonight, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., becomes the face of the Republican Party. And it is that Latino face that carries more significance perhaps than any of the words he will speak.
A public nod from the party that garnered only 27 percent of the Hispanic votes–a lower percentage than the 2008, 2004, and 2000 Republican elections, that it finally understands Republicans must broaden their reach.
Those closely involved in constructing Rubio’s response told ABC News he will not make this a speech about Latino issues, however. He plans on mentioning immigration, maybe even his new support of a “path to citizenship” for the undocumented, but it will not be the dominant theme.
Instead, Rubio will focus on traditional Republican tent poles of lower taxes and spending cuts, allowing parents to choose private schools with taxpayer dollars while making the case that everyone benefits from GOP values.
But more important than the words he speaks, will be the way he delivers them–some of the speech will be in Spanish.
As one Rubio confidante told ABC News, “no one speech can fix the Republican disconnect with the new America.”
Still, during a night of symbols, those simple phrases in a working-class language, spoken by a first-generation Cuban-American suddenly fronting the party of tax breaks for the rich could be the biggest symbol of change of the night.