The expectations going into Sen. Marco Rubio's (R-Fla.) response to the State of the Union address couldn't have been much higher, especially coming on the heels of the "Republican savior" label. And it's fair to say the far-right Floridian didn't exactly make the most of the opportunity.
In speeches like these, it's almost inevitable that in the contest between style and substance, the former trumps the latter. It's why so many still laugh at Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) four years later. And on this score, Rubio had a very tough night -- he looked like a nervous and sweaty personal-injury attorney before taking an instantly-famous drink of water during his live broadcast.
Watching this unfold over 15 minutes, it was hard not to think that if this guy is the GOP's "savior," the party is in deep trouble.
But while it was Rubio's dry mouth that will be remembered, I hope the political world won't completely overlook the speech itself, because the far-right senator's remarks helped prove that he's quite literally not ready for prime time, for reasons that have nothing to do with his hard-to-watch presentation.
By any sensible measure, Rubio's entire pitch was incoherent gibberish. He thinks President Obama is hostile to free enterprise and wants to increase the deficit, neither of which makes any sense. Rubio thinks the housing crisis was caused by big government, which is simply idiotic. Rubio celebrates his family's history of dependence on government social programs like student loans and Medicare, while articulating a policy agenda that guts government social programs like student loans and Medicare.
Forget ideology, subjectivity, and areas of opinion -- the fact is Marco Rubio's speech was filled with a series of claims with no meaningful connection to reality. The senator even thinks combating the climate crisis means asking government to "control the weather," which is just genuinely dumb.
I know many of the folks watching Rubio's right-wing infomercial kept asking, "What's wrong with the guy's mouth?" but I kept wondering, "What planet is this guy living on?"
What's more, as someone who spent quite a bit of time studying Mitt Romney's stump speech, I can say with great confidence that there were no real differences between Rubio's remarks and the failed Republican presidential candidate's pitch to voters last year. Indeed, in some cases, it seemed like a word-for-word copy-and-paste job, up to and including, whining about "wasting more taxpayer money on so-called 'clean energy' companies like Solyndra."
And therein lies the point. Republicans are absolutely convinced that there's nothing wrong with their policy agenda, and there are no substantive lessons to be learned from their 2012 defeats. It's why they're still pushing abortion legislation, still waging a war on voting, still pushing to defund Planned Parenthood, and still refusing to compromise on fiscal issues.
And of 11 hours ago, they're still pushing Mitt Romney's platform, subtly repackaged for Marco Rubio.
I suppose this shouldn't come as too big a surprise -- GOP leaders have spent three months saying they'll get back on track with better messengers, not different ideas. So why not just hand Romney's stump speech to Rubio and hope for the best?