WASHINGTON -- The Spanish-language version of the Republican response to President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address is getting a little more attention than normal. That’s because the Spanish version will be a translation of an English speech by a senator who has been a vocal advocate for keeping other languages out of government.
Appealing to Hispanic voters has been a top concern for Republicans, who see the need to win more Latinos as a key to winning future presidential campaigns. And delivering a Spanish version of the State of the Union response has become common.
The English response is going to freshman Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst, who was tapped for the honor to respond to Obama because of her appeal to women voters and her experience as a veteran. She’s popular among the tea party adherents and excites conservatives.
Freshman GOP Rep. Carlos Curbelo, a conservative from Miami, was selected to deliver the Spanish speech. But it’s unclear just how much he will be able to change Ernst’s speech or if he’ll largely be reading a translation. When contacted, his office couldn’t respond to inquires about whether he would be making changes to Ernst’s speech.
And to make the matter more interesting, as Mother Jones points out, Ernst has been a strong advocate for making English the official language and has fought against official government translations. She once sued the Iowa secretary of state for printing voting materials in Spanish.
It’s not unusual for Republicans to deliver a Spanish-language response to the president’s State of the Union. In 2013, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio delivered both the English and Spanish responses, delivering the same speech in both languages.
In 2014, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen delivered a Spanish version of Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers’ response to the State of the Union address. But Ros-Lehtinen changed the speech, adding her own observations and anecdotes.