Marco Rubio to deliver GOP response to Obama’s State of the Union

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), will give the formal Republican response to President Obama’s State of the Union address next week, GOP leaders said Wednesday.

A statement announcing the decision signaled that party leaders expect the Florida senator — and potential 2016 presidential candidate — to expand on his well-received speech to the Republican National Convention last summer that weaved the tale of his family’s immigrant history with his quick rise through the political ranks.

In a modern-day first, the bilingual Rubio plans to deliver his remarks in English and Spanish — an added bonus for Republicans eager to reach the nation’s burgeoning Hispanic population. Aides said they are still coordinating logistics of dual English-Spanish versions of his remarks with Spanish-language television networks, but that Rubio’s remarks likely will be pre-recorded to permit the simultaneous broadcast.

Rubio said Wednesday that he is honored to have the opportunity “to discuss how limited government and free enterprise have helped make my family’s dreams come true in America.”

In the same statement, House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) called Rubio “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.”

The State of the Union regularly draws one of the largest television audiences for any national political event, giving Rubio a unique opportunity to address a wider segment of the population. The plum assignment presents an opportunity for the senator to tout his role in the ongoing bipartisan negotiations over how to overhaul the nation’s immigration laws, but aides said Rubio does not plan to discuss any specific immigration proposals.

Since signing on to a bipartisan immigration framework with three other Republican senators and four Democrats, Rubio has been working relentlessly to sell the idea on conservative radio and television. But he’s faced some push-back within the party from conservative lawmakers, radio talk show hosts and columnists.

Despite the exposure, opposition party responses to national presidential addresse fraught with risk: Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) was widely panned for what critics dubbed an awkward response to 2009 national address by Obama, while then-Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius’s (D) response to President George W. Bush was also criticized as awkward and ineffective.

Rosalind S. Helderman contributed to this report.

Ed O’Keefe is covering the 2016 presidential campaign, with a focus on Jeb Bush and other Republican candidates. He's covered presidential and congressional politics since 2008. Off the trail, he's covered Capitol Hill, federal agencies and the federal workforce, and spent a brief time covering the war in Iraq.

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