Republicans chose Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, a fresh new face
of the party, to respond to President Barack Obama's State of the
Union address on Tuesday.
But if the messenger was new, the message Rubio offered was back- to-basics, a recommitment of the party to traditional conservative notions of economic growth.
He argued that low taxes, limited regulations and smaller government would free the economy from the shackles of big government that he contended Obama offered in his own address.
But the Florida senator focused sharply on how such ideas could boost the middle class and improve the lives of individual people, part of a new Republican effort to more clearly connect their visions with the everyday problems of ordinary Americans.
"Mr. President, I don't oppose your plans because I want to protect the rich," he said. "I oppose your plans because I want to protect my neighbors. Hard-working middle class Americans who don't need us to come up with a plan to grow the government."
Rubio called for a balanced-budget amendment to force Washington to reduce spending and accused Obama of having an "obsession" with raising taxes rather than tackling growing deficits through spending cuts or economic growth.
But Rubio was carefully chosen by House Speaker John Boehner, R- Ohio, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McCon-nell, R-Ky., to serve as friendlier, hipper and more inclusive fighter for their cause at a time when the party is looking to soften its image.
At 41, the Cuban American first-termer is savvy on social media, conversant in rap music and pop culture, and has worried publicly about the difficulties of balancing work and fatherhood.
In a State of the Union first, he delivered versions of the speech in both English and Spanish.
Rubio's official Republican response was followed by a second speech by Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., sponsored by the Tea Party Express, a conservative political action committee.
It was the third year in a row in which a Tea Party group has sponsored its own State of the Union response.
Paul took both parties to task for spending too much and called on Congress to allow the $85 billion automatic spending cut set to take effect on March 1 to go ahead, despite a hit to the Pentagon.
Here's the video of Rubio's rebuttal:
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