President Barack Obama has broken two barriers: Being the first black president -- and becoming the first Latino president, according to Tom Perez, Obama’s labor secretary. Perez made the comment a day after Obama’s shocking shift to take steps to normalize relations with Cuba and a month after the president’s executive actions on immigration that had widespread appeal among Latinos.
“When I reflect on the breadth and depth of what he has done for Latinos, it really makes him in my mind, and in the minds of so many others, the first Latino president,” Perez said Thursday, according to Politico. “The president gets it” on policies that help Latinos, said Perez, the son of immigrants from the Dominican Republic.
The idea of Obama as the first Latino president is a view not shared by some Latino members of the GOP, including U.S. Rep. Mario Díaz-Balart, R-Florida., who told Politico that the president’s decision to reach a deal with Cuba to normalize relations and eventually ease travel restrictions will turn off some Hispanic voters. Díaz-Balart, a Cuban-American who represents a Miami-based district with a heavily Cuban population, said Latinos won’t like Obama’s secretive approach that led to the game-changing agreement with Cuba or that the deal doesn’t include democratic reforms in Havana.
“There will be a first Latino president, and one of the things that Latinos want -- it’s an American thing, but a Latino thing -- is you keep your word,” Díaz-Balart told Politico. “If George Washington was the president who could not tell a lie, then history will record Obama as the president who could not say the truth.”
Even if Obama is considered the first Latino president, the title is in name only. It's akin to Bill Clinton being hailed as the first black president during his administration. But the reality is there are some Latinos who have a chance of moving into the White House in the near future. Here are five Hispanic politicians who could become the nation's first Latino president one day:
1. Ted Cruz. The Republican U.S. Senator from Texas might have the best shot at being the first Latino president out of anyone on this list. The son of a Cuban immigrant, Cruz is beloved by the tea party wing of the Republican Party and would have massive grassroots support in a 2016 presidential campaign.
2. Marco Rubio. Rubio, a U.S. senator from Florida, is the son of Cuban immigrants and is known as a charismatic speaker. He faces obstacles to a 2016 bid, but don’t rule out Rubio as a presidential candidate beyond then. Rubio was the speaker of the Florida House of Representatives before his election to the Senate in 2006, and he’s seen as one of the Republican Party’s rising stars.
3. Julián Castro. On the Democratic side, Julián Castro is an up-and-coming politician who serves as Housing and Urban Development secretary in the Obama administration and was a former mayor of San Antonio, Texas. Castro was thrust into the national spotlight when he served as the keynote speaker at the 2012 Democratic convention in Charlotte, North Carolina. The prime speaking spot is usually reserved for a rising star in the party. For instance, Obama gave the keynote address at the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston, when John Kerry ran for president.
4. Joaquín Castro. Joaquín Castro is Julián’s twin brother and serves as a Democratic congressman representing the San Antonio area of Texas. Castro is often talked of for higher office, including as a possible challenger to Cruz in 2018, according to the New York Times.
5. Susana Martinez. The popular New Mexico governor, Martinez became the first Hispanic to hold that title. While it may be a little premature, Martinez was rated by the Washington Post in March as the top 2016 vice presidential pick on the Republican side. That would put her just a heartbeat away from the presidency and would give her a jumpstart on the 2022 campaign.
6. Brian Sandoval. Sandoval was the first Hispanic to be elected to statewide office in Nevada. The Republican governor may be eyeing a challenge to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, in 2016, which would boost his national profile. He also has presidential appeal by being from a swing state that Republicans will need to win in upcoming presidential elections.