Cepeda: Rubio and Cruz GOP superstars
CHICAGO It's fascinating that two Hispanic men both of whom are further to the right of where most Latinos stand on immigration are at the epicenter of the current reform debate.
Both Cuban-Americans, Sens. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Ted Cruz, R-Texas, represent the young, multicultural new face of what could someday become a diverse and welcoming Republican Party.
Until then, they'll be two of the most important Hispanic political players that many Latinos don't much care for.
As an architect of the Senate's compromise bill, Rubio who in February graced the cover of Time magazine as "The Republican Savior" and "the new voice of the GOP" would probably emerge unscathed if the reform measure fails in the Senate.
Oh sure, there were mini-freakouts recently when some liberal commentators who had up to then expressed only an increasing admiration for Rubio's evolving leadership on immigration began to worry that Rubio would come out against his own bill.
And liberal Latinos had already started pitching fits when he began talking about not voting for his own bill unless more border security measures were included. The complaints started building when Rubio announced he'd be submitting an amendment requiring immigrants to prove they could read, write and speak English before earning a green card.
Yet Rubio who fits a comforting narrative of charming, bilingual, pulled-himself-up-by-his-bootstraps, son of immigrants enjoys a benefit of the doubt that will keep him in the good graces of both the general public and the Republican Party.
Ted Cruz? Not so much.
Aside from tea partyers who just couldn't be happier to have a Latino in their ranks who's as passionate about abolishing the IRS and repealing Obamacare as they are Tea Party Nation recently proclaimed Cruz "an absolute American Hero" the junior senator from the Lone Star State seems to turn people off wherever he goes.
Many Hispanics even independent and moderate Republican ones are horrified by him. Cruz gets slammed not only for his ultra-conservative political views and his inability to speak Spanish, but particularly for his belief that current and former immigrants living in the U.S. illegally should not be eligible for citizenship.
A recent Latino Decisions poll found that 69 percent of Hispanic voters view Rubio more favorably for stating that the 11 million unauthorized immigrants deserve compassion. Only 28 percent view Cruz more favorably in light of his anti-citizenship stance.
But personality matters in politics. If Cruz were more convivial like, say, former Florida governor Jeb Bush, who holds much the same views on granting citizenship it would be easier for Cruz to get away with sticking to his convictions. But the self-promoting, outspoken some say arrogant Cruz doesn't have that kind of wiggle room.
Most of all, Cruz fails on that ever-important Republican stumbling block of "tone." He seems constantly scowling and "mad as hell," etc., etc.
Not that Cruz needs any warmth from the likes of moderates; he's got plenty of gushing fans.
In this spotlight, Cruz and Rubio represent two fundamental truths: Republicans, like Hispanics, are an ideologically diverse bunch.
And, no matter the outcome of this immigration reform battle, the profile of Latinos in American politics has been elevated.