The Washington Times - February 6, 2013, 03:43PM

Seeking to counter President Obama’s speaking skills with a great orator of their own, Republicans have tapped Sen. Marco Rubio to deliver the official GOP response to Mr. Obama’s State of the Union address next week — in both English and Spanish.

“Marco Rubio embodies the optimism that lies at the heart of the Republican vision for America,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican.

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The move is symbolic for many reasons — not least of which is Mr. Rubio’s prominent stance in favor of legalizing illegal immigrants, which is an issue that has deeply divided the GOP.

Mr. Rubio is in his third year in the Senate, and is mentioned as a likely 2016 contender for the Republican presidential nomination. In delivering the GOP’s response he follows in the footsteps of other contenders such as Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal in 2009, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell in 2010 and Rep. Paul D. Ryan in 2011.

In the past, Republicans have had one lawmaker give a response in English and another give the response in Spanish, but Mr. Rubio’s fluency will let him give both addresses.

In announcing the move, Mr. Rubio’s office released a statement in both English and Spanish.

“I’m honored to have this opportunity to discuss how limited government and free enterprise have helped make my family’s dreams come true in America,” Mr. Rubio said.