Marco Rubio Reply to State of the Union Address: Can He Meet Expectations? (+Video)

By Feldmann, Linda | The Christian Science Monitor, February 11, 2013 | Go to article overview

Marco Rubio Reply to State of the Union Address: Can He Meet Expectations? (+Video)


Feldmann, Linda, The Christian Science Monitor


Marco Rubio is the it man of the Republican Party.

The junior senator from Florida is Latino, young, articulate, and photogenic and on Tuesday night, he will deliver the GOP response to President Obamas State of the Union (SOTU) address. In a first, he will give the speech in both English and Spanish.

On his back, Senator Rubio carries the hopes of a party that lost badly among Latino voters in the presidential race, winning just 27 percent. But Rubio represents more than just outreach to Americas fastest-growing ethnic minority: He is, Republicans hope, a bridge to other minorities who also fled Mitt Romney in droves.

Just as important as Rubios face and name will be his tone. He is the new compassionate conservative.

Can the man Time magazine dubbed the Republican savior and a leading prospect for the 2016 presidential race possibly deliver on such high expectations? It will be tough. Rubio himself responded to the Time cover with a tweet: "There is only one savior, and it is not me. #Jesus."

His quip projects a little humility as well as faith (Roman Catholic), a Republican touchstone. But the pressure on him to score Tuesday night is still sky-high.

He may not consider himself the savior, but hes got to be the savior for at least one night, says Ford OConnell, chairman of the conservative CivicForumPAC.

Exactly what that means, even just being a one-night savior, is open to interpretation. In a way, Rubio has already scored a small victory by taking some attention away from Mr. Obamas address. SOTU response speeches are typically an afterthought that gets little to no notice.

Usually, the best-case scenario is that such speechmakers dont mess up. The worst case is they look foolish. In 2009, Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) of Louisiana was tapped to reply to Obamas first address to a joint session of Congress, right after his inauguration. Governor Jindal seemed perfect a young, articulate minority (Indian- American) going up against the first black president. Instead, he was panned by even conservative pundits for both his words stale rhetoric, said one and his delivery, likened to Kenneth the Page on the TV show 30 Rock.

For Jindal, that episode remains a lingering negative as he reportedly considers his own 2016 presidential run. Contrast that with Obamas national debut, his speech at the Democratic National Convention in 2004, or even Rubios address at the 2012 Republican National Convention introducing Mr. Romney.

Last August, Rubio arguably gave the best speech of the whole Tampa, Fla. …

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Marco Rubio Reply to State of the Union Address: Can He Meet Expectations? (+Video)
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