Marco Rubio was a rising start in the GOP long before he was chosen as the Poland Springs pitch person to give the GOP response at the recent State of the Union address. His strengths include his compelling life story and his articulateness. But much discussion has focused on how his ethnic background will help change the image of the GOP as a party of white men. In an assessment of Rubio's conservativeness and electability, Nate Silver for example stated: "There are also the facts that Mr. Rubio is Hispanic and is fromFlorida, but these advantages boil down to electability as well: the possibility that he might help Republicans make gains with Latinos, and that he could give them a lift in an especially important swing state."
Yes, Rubio is Latino. Yes, he hails from a swing state with a bushel of electoral votes. But I'm not seeing how he is supposed to put a better face on the GOP for Latinos. Mr. Rubio is Cuban-American. Most of the Latinos in the country are Mexican-American. Also, Latinos don't tend to self-identify as Latino or Hispanic; they prefer more specific national-origin lables like "Mexican-American", "Purerto Rican-American", "Dominican-American" etc. It is unclear whether Mexican-Americans and Salvadoran-Americans, for example, will view Rubio as "one of them". I'm not convinced Rubio will help make GOP inroads into Latino communities beyond the Cuban-American one. Even among Cuban-Americans who have historically voted Republican, there is recent evidence that this trend is no longer true for the younger generation of Cuban-Americans who voted for Obama. The GOP will have to do much more to reach Latinos than to use Rubio as spokesperson.