Between an Ideologue and a Hard Place: Another Tea Party State of the Union Response

Interesting: On Tuesday we will have the State of the Union Address from President Obama, the official Republican Response from Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), and then another Tea Party Response (think Michele Bachmann, missed camera cues, and simplistic charts) from Senator Rand Paul (R-KY).

Though Senator Paul may have a more-serious potential constituency than Michele Bachmann (who has never actually been more than a bomb-throwing House backbencher), this is ultimately just more evidence of indiscipline among Congressional Republicans. Senators Rubio and Paul are both on their party’s right flank–though Paul more so, I nonetheless think their voting records clearly indicate that the contrast between the 2 is exaggerated–and they are both known to be Republican 2016 Presidential prospects. If Senator Paul’s message differs too substantially from Senator Rubio’s, the Republican Party will continue to appear divided to the point of self-injury–after everything that happened during the 112th Congress, the Republican Presidential Primaries, and the 2012 Election season. If on the other hand Paul’s Tea Party Response sounds too similar to Rubio’s mainline Response, the Tea Party respondent will look like he’s simply saying “Me too! Me too!” in a self-seeking bid for name-recognition. The Response speech is supposed to lay out the opposition party’s props or skepticism to the President, their premises and their contrasting political vision; how do you prepare an alternate response?

1 further thought on this: Even in 2012, when all the Conservative-insurgents were in there sharpenin’ their knives, they couldn’t beat the obviously more-moderate Governor Romney in what, for all its strangeness, wound-down the way Republican Presidential Primaries normally do.  If 2012 wasn’t the insurgents’ year for the Republican Presidential nomination, what could Senator Paul be thinking in staking-out space to the right of Senator Rubio, himself already on the right flank of Senate Republicans?  Senator Rubio is himself very-much a Conservative, and so poses risk for the Republican National Committee: If they are grooming a Presidential candidate because he communicates well and can appeal to a needed growing demographic (Hispanics, of course), they are betting a lot on the thought that his substantial voting and advocacy record won’t become a matter of controversy in a general election in 2016.

But I’m jumping ahead of myself.  Senator Paul probably thinks his speech will allow him to stake-out 2016 Presidential territory for himself; even this far in advance, I don’t see how the State of the Union Responses can do anything but reveal Senator Rubio eclipsing the heir to the Libertarian right in Congress.


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