It is now just over a week since the infamous water incident occurring during Senator Rubio’s response to the State of the Union Address. While funny, it points to key weaknesses that may prevent Rubio from being a serious contender in 2016. The first is that he’s not properly prepared for major prime-time events. Second, his delivery needs work to convince voters. Third the Republican brand itself needs a true overhaul to build winning coalitions for national elections. These issues are serious obstacles for any Republican looking to face the Democratic Nominee in 2016
Rubio Uncomfortable In High Pressure Situations
Marco Rubio’s response to the State of the Union Address was his official début on the national stage. Even with viewership down from previous addresses, he still had an audience of millions. Such chances to communicate your policies and vision are rare and difficult to make on your own. Rubio’s water-gate showed that he has trouble dealing with high pressure situations. If he has difficulty with a response to the State of The Union, what about a nationally televised debate during the primaries or worse, the general election? A water-gate moment on such a crucial stage cripples or ends campaigns. Even worse is the poor contrast. The President is already known for his oratorical skills, but it is basic political speaking 101 to be able to get through a speech without such awkward moments. The optics only heightened the president’s stature and weakened Rubio’s position as a serious policy maker from the opposition.
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Rubio’s Speech Was Not Innovative
Rubio’s delivery was emotional and compassionate, but it fell short due to rehashing the same talking points of the previous election. A serious response would accept the political reality. The same party positions he repeated failed to win back the presidency last year. A serious change agent would focus on popular issues like supporting a minimum wage, common sense debt reduction, and an immigration policy that works for everyone. Rubio already took a step in the right direction by urging the passage of comprehensive immigration reform, but his speech showed the inability to be a serious spokesperson on the issue. Building credibility is an important part of politics and Rubio’s performance diminished it by not providing a serious-minded answer and properly using his personal American story. Instead the speech was a canned response that didn’t seriously address the actual State of the Union’s key points. Even worse it provided serious contradictions. Rubio talks about reducing the need for government in people’s lives, but talked about how government programs like Pell grants allowed him to go to college. He didn’t recognize the contradictions in his own life, let alone overall policy.
The Republican Party Isn’t Changing Fast Enough
The Republican party has more conservative adherents than ever and they act as if Romney won last November. This attitude is dangerous for a party seeking to stay on the national stage of politics. More dangerous is the pressure it puts on candidates for national office to conform rather than appeal to mainstream opinion. Rubio can be a credible partner on the right for immigration reform as a living example and ambassador. However his own party may limit his effectiveness at working across party lines, a major requirement needed to play in major league politics. A perfect example is the rival Tea Party response made by fellow Senator, Rand Paul.
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A Small Gaffe Points To Major Weaknesses
Overall, we see that at best, Rubio has more to learn about national level politics. And its pressures. At worst, he showed he lacks the seriousness and preparation to be a major actor in Washington in the coming years.