In 1985, then Governor Bill Clinton delivered his party’s response to the State of the Union address. Seven years later he went on to win the Presidency. He is the last person to deliver the SOTU response and actually end up as the President, and yet delivering the response is reserved for party stars.
This year, the Republican Party’s alleged golden ticket to the Hispanic vote, Cuban-American Senator Marco Rubio, will deliver the response. The Republican Party has thrown their best and brightest at Obama in responses to his State of the Union addresses. The list reads like a 2016 lineup, provided the public has forgotten Gov Bobby Jindal’s 2009 Kenneth the Page does Gone with the Wind spectacle:
2013 Marco Rubio (R-FLA), 2012 Mitch Daniels (R-IN), 2011 Paul Ryan (R-WI), 2010 McDonnell (R-VA), and 2009 Bobby Jindal (R-LA).
Everyone on this list has a specific image problem, save Mitch Daniels, who doesn’t seem to be angling for 2016 since he left politics to become the president of Purdue University.
Ryan has the specter of his “immoral budget”, math failures, 2012 stench, and extremism on women’s issues. McDonnell is synonymous with state mandated transvaginal ultrasounds and Jindal has that sweeping staircase, his walked back attempt to kill hospice, and raising taxes on the poor via the no more income tax plan.
Rubio, who in 2010 used the Tea Party as a stepping stone into the establishment GOP, has the dark halo of the Florida GOP swirling around him and an antagonistic relationship with the very Hispanic voters he’s supposed to be attracting (it seems the GOP hasn’t yet realized that there are a variety of different issues du jour as well as heritages within the Hispanic community).
Rubio has four years to remake himself as not anti-DREAMer, but his opposition to “amnesty” won’t soon be forgotten. Perhaps he wasn’t in the limelight enough to make a total fool of himself during the tea crazed era of the GOP. Lucky Rubio — he knows how to use ’em and discard ’em.
But his relationship with Univisión is so ugly that Rubio has been called a “token slave boy, Disney dwarf, loser” by a Univisión staffer, and we are told that the general sentiment of Rubio as betrayer is shared by many at the network.
In 2011, Republican candidates boycotted Univisión. They claimed it was over allegations that they had tried to extort an interview from Rubio, but Univisión said Republicans were just retaliating because the network ran a story about Rubio’s brother’s trouble with the law.
During that war, Rubio dismissed the network completely. Asked if the candidates were missing an opportunity to speak to the public, Rubio sneered, “I think they’ll find alternative forums to communicate with people. I don’t think there will be any shortage of televised debates, including on ‘Saturday Night Live.'”
Somehow the Republican Party keeps doing this: Running an external “I’m like you” and thinking that even as that external hates on the very segment they’re supposed to bring in, it will work. It’s so high school clique mentality; if you hate on them, they’ll want to be you. Republicans seem to believe that the issue is just their rhetoric, but that notion is condescending to the very people they’re trying to court. It’s the policies and the rhetoric. No one enjoys being used as target practice for a desperate party.
The Republican Party seems totally clueless about Rubio’s appeal. 2008 John McCain campaign adviser Nicole Wallace giddily touted Rubio’s familiarity with Tupac as a bonus, “He’s everything we need and more. He’s modern. He knows who Tupac is. He is on social media.”
But as Raw Story pointed out, Tupac has been dead for quite a while. Also, “on social media”? Houston, we have a problem.
I’m dubious, but Rubio is a gifted public speaker and provided the only decent speech in Tampa at the Republican National Convention, though his words may come back to haunt him. In his speech, Rubio smoked the Fox crack, accusing the President of dividing us against each other.
Rubio’s smart enough to avoid the Tea Party in public, but Republican enough to hate “illegals” with new, “kinder” language. We’re told his mother is urging him to have a heart with undocumented immigrants (conveniently timed with Karl Rove’s recent introduction to humanity, also known in some circles as chasing the Hispanic vote after an epic electoral spanking), so Rubio should be able to pull off a much better response than Jindal and certainly Bachmann’s wrong-camera tea party craziness.
But Rubio has a long way to go before he can deliver what the Republican Party thinks his skin color will automatically garner them. He has a lot of making up to do with the Hispanic community. The last time the GOP tried this was with Sarah Palin, and women were not amused.
Ms. Jones is the co-founder/ editor-in-chief of PoliticusUSA and a member of the White House press pool.
Sarah hosts Politicus News and co-hosts Politicus Radio. Her analysis has been featured on several national radio, television news programs and talk shows, and print outlets including Stateside with David Shuster, as well as The Washington Post, The Atlantic Wire, CNN, MSNBC, The Week, The Hollywood Reporter, and more.
Sarah is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.