Last week, Republican leaders announced that Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) would deliver the party's response to President Obama's State of the Union address. There's a bit of a risk associated with the move -- these SOTU responses rarely provide a career boost -- but Republicans seemed excited to have their "rising star" take center stage.
But late on Friday, we learned there will be more than one Republican response.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) will deliver a "Tea Party Response" to the State of the Union on Tuesday, immediately after Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) delivers the official Republican response.Tea Party Express, a political action committee, announced Friday afternoon that Paul will deliver the rebuttal at the National Press Club and that it will stream it live on its website.
Oh, right. I'd almost forgotten that the Tea Partiers like to have their own SOTU responses. In 2011, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) delivered a classic -- remember how she looked into the wrong camera? -- followed by Herman Cain's speech in 2012. The right-wing activists appear to be moving up in the world: now they have a sitting senator helping out.
But for Republicans, this isn't good news at all. What GOP officials want tomorrow night is two competing messages: the president's vision vs. the Republican vision. Rubio's speech, to be delivered in English and Spanish, will be carefully crafted with poll-tested ideas and phrases, intended to help get the party back on track after its 2012 electoral failures.
But there won't be two competing messages; Rand Paul guarantees there will be three. The public won't get a tale of two visions; Americans will hear the president, then a Republican response, then another Republican response. That the two GOP messages will be delivered by two conservative senators who are both likely to seek national office in a few years only complicates matters further.
"I don't see it as necessarily divisive," Paul said yesterday. Care to wager on whether his party's leaders agree?