Rubio was very much focused on the party’s message during his speech, but he also used the opportunity to intersperse anecdotes about his own uniquely American experience and humble beginnings.
Rubio alluded to his parents’ immigration to the United States from
Cuba, the fact that he still lives in “the same working class
neighborhood I grew up in,” and the $100,000 in student loans he only
recently paid off (he is 41 years old).
“My neighbors aren’t millionaires. They’re retirees who
depend on Social Security and Medicare. They’re workers who have to get
up early tomorrow morning and go to work to pay the bills. They’re
immigrants, who came here because they were stuck in poverty in
countries where the government dominated the economy,” Rubio said,
adding: “So, Mr. President, I don’t oppose your plans because I want
to protect the rich. I oppose your plans because I want to protect my
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.
Where Rubio excelled was in his ability to weave his personal details
into a core conservative message. Rubio didn’t dwell on these details,
delivering an effective (and pretty strongly conservative) rebuttal to
the president’s address as well. Rubio, after all, was speaking for his
party and not himself, so the speech couldn’t be too personal.
In the end, Rubio’s otherwise strong delivery suffered from his
momentary, awkward swig from a water bottle — it may be silly, but it
will likely be on “Saturday Night Live” this weekend, and that matters —
but it seems doubtful that the stumble will overshadow his entire
speech, as did an internet parody of Bobby Jindal’s 2009 response.
Absent that, what Republicans are left with was an effective response
to Obama’s address. And for Rubio, he’s made a solid first impression
with a lot of voters who had no or little idea who he was before
tonight. (Full Story at WaPo)