Just one day after Iowans head to the polls for the presidential caucuses, President Donald Trump will deliver the last State of the Union address of his first term in office on Feb. 4, and Democrats already have a response lined up. This year, Democrats have selected women from key 2020 states — Michigan and Texas — to respond to Trump's speech. According to a Jan. 24 announcement from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, Gretchen Whitmer and Veronica Escobar will give the 2020 SOTU rebuttal in both English and Spanish.
Whitmer is the governor of Michigan, while Escobar is a congresswoman representing El Paso, Texas. According to CNN, Whitmer was elected in 2018 to govern a state that voted Democrat for nearly three decades, before helping Trump win the presidency in 2016. Trump was the first Republican to win Michigan in a presidential election since former President George H. W. Bush in 1988, per Politico.
Escobar, meanwhile, is the first woman to represent El Paso, which is on the U.S.-Mexico border. In Trump's 2019 State of the Union address, the president used El Paso to make an argument for his border wall, suggesting that the city had once had high crime rates, but "El Paso is one of the safest cities in our country" with a wall in place. During the historic 2018 midterms, Escobar and fellow Texas Rep. Sylvia Garcia became the first two Latina women to be elected to Congress from Texas.
Now, both Whitmer and Escobar will have the chance to respond to Trump's Feb. 4 address. Whitmer will deliver Democrats' rebuttal in English, while Escobar will respond in Spanish. It won't be the first time these women challenge the Trump administration's policies or priorities, however. In August 2019, Escobar declined to join Trump on his visit to El Paso after an Aug. 3 mass shooting at a Walmart in her city left more than 20 people dead. At the time, Escobar expressed her refusal "to be an accessory to his visit.” In a series of tweets, Escobar also slammed the language that Trump has used to discuss Latinx people, immigrants, and other minorities.
Whitmer, meanwhile, has been vocal about the strategy she thinks Democrats need to implement in order to take back the White House in 2020. During her gubernatorial campaign, Whitmer prioritized issues that she believed mattered most to Michigan voters, like clean drinking water, road repairs, and affordable health care. In June 2019, Whitmer suggested that Democrats' “strength is on the dinner-table issues,” and she urged the Democratic presidential candidates to “stay focused, I think, on issues that really improve people’s lives" if they hope to beat Trump in the November election.
The Democratic Party is no doubt hoping that this is the last State of the Union address that Trump delivers, and Whitmer and Escobar will likely prepare a strong set of arguments to outline Democratic priorities and challenge the Trump administration. In past years, key Democrats have delivered scathing critiques of Trump and his policies, and 2020 will likely be no different.