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GOP success strategy: Recruit more Hispanics (like Marco Rubio) and women

Without saying a word, Sen. Marco Rubio will send a key message to Republicans in his response to President Obama's State of the Union address. The GOP must engage minority voters, especially Hispanics, as well as women. And it must actively recruit such candidates.

By Ed Gillespie / February 12, 2013

Sen. Marco Rubio (R) of Florida, who will give the GOP response to President Obama's State of the Union address tonight, speaks with The Associated Press in his Capitol Hill office on Feb. 7. Op-ed contributor Ed Gillespie writes: 'Small government, free enterprise, personal freedom, and an entrepreneurial spirit are the core of Republican philosophy, but how we communicate this and who communicates it is crucial.'

J. Scott Applewhite/AP

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Without even saying a word, Sen. Marco Rubio is sending an important message to Republicans in his response to President Obama's State of the Union address tonight.

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As the election showed, unless Republicans see an increase in support from minority voters, especially Hispanics such as Mr. Rubio who are the fastest growing segment of the electorate, the Republican Party's chances of future success are grim. We must have a long-term, sustained engagement with minorities and also with women – rooted in electing a new generation of leaders who accurately represent the electorate – if we are to gain a new Republican majority.

And here's another key message from the election: In Republican-led states, our policies work and voters recognize it. For example, in 2012 Republicans made a net gain in legislative chambers in six states won by Mr. Obama: New Mexico, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Washington, and Wisconsin. Republicans saw a net gain in 30 chambers, increased the number of states under complete Republican legislative control from 25 to 26 and now hold veto-proof majorities in 16 states – up from 13 in 2012. Currently, 53 percent of Americans live in states where Republicans control both the legislature and the governorship, according to the Pew Center on the States.

Building more diversity in GOP support within our states is the critical link to expanding the scope and reach of our Republican message nationwide.

Small government, free enterprise, personal freedom, and an entrepreneurial spirit are the core of Republican philosophy, but how we communicate this and who communicates it is crucial. As an Irish Catholic, I've seen my share of politicians at St. Patrick's Day parades and Knights of Columbus halls, and there's no doubt that voters relate more readily to candidates with whom they identify.

In only the last few years, national messengers have emerged from state-level office – including Senators Rubio of Florida and Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire and New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez – who have not only led in the legislative and policy arena, but have also advanced the GOP's reach in some of the most effective ways. It's a dynamic we need to see more of, and it does not happen overnight.

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