President Obama's assessment of the State of the Union (SOTU) was starkly different from the Republican response by Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) and the Tea Party response by Senator Rand Paul (R-KY).
The complete text of Obama's speech in the Washington Post is at http://tinyurl.com/b5yj8fx
The complete text of Rubio's speech in both English and Spanish, since he delivered it in each language, in Politico is at http://tinyurl.com/btlu9e9.
It is noteworthy that Rubio (pictured) included a pro-life statement in his speech: "America is exceptional because we believe that every life, at every stage, is precious, and that everyone everywhere has a God-given right to go as far as their talents and hard work will take them."
LifeNews.com reported that Rubio later told David Brody of CBN News: "This is about protecting people, human beings who maybe can't speak yet and haven't been born, perhaps don't have a name or a social security number but they're fully human nonetheless. They're valuable and they're precious and they deserve to be protected."
The complete text of Paul's speech in Politico is at http://tinyurl.com/a8ymtz3
According to Politico, Obama's speech was seen by 33.5 million people, which was the second-lowest rated SOTU address since Nielsen began recording viewership in 1993.
Audience interest in Obama's SOTU presentations has been in steady decline:
2009 52.4 million
2010 48.0 million
2011 42.8 million
2012 37.8 million
2013 33.5 million
In a New York Post article, "Welcome to fantasy world of government as cure-all." John Podhoretz called the President's speech a "liberal fantasy straight out of The West Wing" fictional TV series.
In Human Events, John Hayward wrote that "Rubio delivered a masterful speech, as did Paul," but pronounced Obama "the most polished speaker of the three." In terms of content, Hayward excoriated the President:
The thrust of Obama's speech is that he's going to double down on everything that already failed, from Solyndra boondoggles to, amazingly enough, the same sort of risky subprime loans that created the 2008 financial crisis…The parts where he claimed to have slashed spending, fixed the deficit, and created a zillion jobs were garden-variety crazy, but the return of the subprime mortgage is dangerous…
The fact-checkers at the Associated Press, Politico, and the Washington Post all found a lot of errors in Obama's presentation.
Despite a plethora of new spending proposals, Obama inexplicably claimed, "Nothing I'm proposing tonight should increase our deficit by a single dime." The Republican National Committee responded with a video showing all of the many times the President had made that statement in the past and the 58.6 Trillion dimes of debt increased during his administration.
By contrast, Curt Levey of the Committee for Justice found the best parts of each of the three speeches.
"There was plenty to criticize in the President's SOTU address. But, instead, we decided to focus on the positive in Obama's remarks and those of SOTU responders Rubio and Paul," he wrote.
Several commentators believe Rubio succeeded in erasing Mitt Romney from the minds of voters as the representative of the Republican Party.
ABC News' Jordan Fabian noted:
Marco Rubio’s response to President Obama’s SOTU address wasn't as much about responding to the President as much as it was about the GOP's effort to rebrand itself.
The Cuban-American senator used his own family's immigrant story to speak about the need for smaller government, entitlement reform, and immigration reform. His friendlier tone and personal background stood in stark contrast to the corporate-raider visage Mitt Romney projected during last year's election.
And both Politico and the Washington Post said Rubio was the anti-Romney.
Jonathan Martin wrote in Politico that Rubio's presentation "had a very serious intent: It was as much an exercise in erasing Mitt Romney's legacy on the Republican Party as it was a traditional response to President Barack Obama's State of the Union address… Rubio went to great lengths to get the message across: The GOP isn't the party of rich white guys."
The Washington Post's Aaron Blake wrote of Rubio:
His best move was in his effort to distance himself from the man he replaces as the de facto standard-bearer for the Republican Party: Mitt Romney…. This is key. A big reason Romney lost in 2012 was because of his inability to connect with the middle class, and the Obama campaign made great gains by painting Romney and the GOP as the party of the wealthy.
A previous issue of this newsletter made this same point, based on exit polls and post-election polls, of why Romney lost.
Politico recalled the Tea Party response to the President's SOTU was given in 2012 by Herman Cain and in 2011 by Congresswoman Michele Bachmann (R-MN). But Roll Call wondered why it was necessary this year, since Paul and Rubio have almost identical voting records in the Senate:
In the 112th Congress, Paul and Rubio received the same Heritage Action conservative score, voting with the group's suggestion on 96 percent of votes it flagged. That ranked both Rubio and Paul just behind Sen. Mike Lee of Utah and former senator and current Heritage Foundation head Jim DeMint in the race to be the Senate's most conservative member.
Even as many Senate Republicans are breaking ranks with the conservative advocacy group, Rubio and Paul are holding strong.
Similarly, the conservative Club for Growth has Paul and Rubio ranked within 3 points of each other on its scorecard. In 2011, the most recent scorecard available, Paul had a 100 percent ranking from the group, with Rubio lagging behind at 97 percent. Both men are in the top 10 most conservative members of the chamber, according to the group.
However, Politico acknowledged that Paul's speech, which was not televised by any of the networks, was "full of red meat," citing such statements as, "We cannot and will not allow any president to act as if he were a king. We will not tolerate secret lists of American citizens who can be killed without trial."
The reference appeared to be the Obama Administration's use of drones to kill American citizens. This issue was covered in a recent issue of this newsletter.
Paul did separate himself from Rubio by criticizing both the Republican Party and the Democratic Party. Roll Call cited Paul's statement:
Both parties have been guilty of spending too much, of protecting their sacred cows, of backroom deals in which everyone up here wins, but every tax payer loses. It is time for a new bipartisan consensus. It is time Democrats admit that not every dollar spent on domestic programs is sacred. And it is time Republicans realize that military spending is not immune to waste and fraud.
As a result, ConservativeHQ.com's verdict was, "If the dueling SOTU responses were the first debate of the 2016 Republican Primary elections, then in our view Senator Rand Paul was the evening's big winner."
The previous What's Happening with Conservatives and the Tea Party: Obama using drones to kill American citizens
The previous What's Happening with Seniors Benefits: Bills to repeal Obamacare tax introduced in House and Senate
Previous issues of both newsletters.
Follow Art Kelly on Twitter @ArthurKellyJr