Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz had a Spanish-off at the Republican primary debate in South Carolina on Saturday night.
Marco Rubio (whose parents are Cuban) accused Ted Cruz (whose father is Cuban) of not understanding something he'd said on Univision in Spanish. Cruz interrupted Rubio — in Spanish — to make his point.
"That's how you want it?" Cruz said in Spanish. "Right now, say it — in Spanish, if you want."
Rubio did not respond in Spanish.
The exchange started with a question on immigration, posed at Cruz, who took it as an opportunity to attack Rubio's record on immigration:
Cruz: I would note not only that, Marco has a long record when it comes to amnesty. As speaker in the state of the house he supported in-state tuition for illegal immigrants. In addition, he went on Univision in Spanish and said he would not rescind President Obama's illegal executive amnesty on his first day in office. I have promised to rescind every single illegal executive action, including that one.
Rubio: Very quickly. First of all, I don't know how he knows what I said on Univision because he doesn't speak Spanish. And second of all, the other point I would make —
Cruz: [Interrupts in Spanish] That's how you want it? Right now, say it — in Spanish, if you want.
Rubio: Look, this is a disturbing pattern now. For a number of weeks Ted Cruz has just been telling lies. He lied about Ben Carson in Iowa.
Cruz was referring to a 2012 Spanish-language Univision interview with Rubio during his second year in Senate:
This is what Rubio actually said in the interview:
I respect the right of Arizona to have a law like the one it had, but I don't believe that it should be a model for the country. I do want to help those young people who are here undocumented and I'm strongly working to attain this. What I do not support is the manner in which the Dream Act does it. I do want to create a system of legal immigration that works. If we have an immigration system that works, then we are not going to have so many.
The topic of immigration continued in the debate, turning to Jeb Bush, who did not break out his own Spanish skills.
Spanish-off or Latino-off?
Cruz and Rubio are both vying for the legacy of being the United States' first Hispanic and Latino president, but most Hispanic and Latino voters don't share their conservative values.
This year will mark a record number of 27.3 million eligible Latino voters in the United States — more than any other racial or ethnic group in the nation, according to a Pew Research study. Nearly half of these voters will be millennials. Projected to represent nearly 12 percent of all eligible voters, Latinos have the potential to substantially impact the 2016 presidential election.
So when Rubio said Cruz "doesn't speak Spanish," he is likely trying to say: I'm the real Latino candidate; vote for me.