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Rubio Previews SOTU Response: Says He'll Push Contrast on Policy, Tone
He’ll be broad, upbeat—and preview the coming disaster.

Rubio will also counter Obama’s anticipated proposals on energy, education, the economy, and debt – offering specific contrasts meant to provide a starkly different policy agenda from the one offered by the president. On debt, one of several areas in which Rubio believes the president is a failed leader, he wants to recast the familiar GOP argument. “The goal is growth,” he says, arguing that with pro-growth policies the federal government could generate an additional $4 trillion in revenues over the next decade, “more than any tax hike” under consideration. Rubio also wants to take arguments about debt from the theoretical and the long-term to the immediate and the short-term. “I think we have to link the debt to their lives. People understand that we have this debt and that their kids are going to get saddled with this in the future. And I think that’s a compelling argument. But I think an even more compelling argument, in conjunction with that one, is to explain to people how the debt is hurting them right now.”

“The debt has a direct impact on unemployment. Ever dollar that is being lent to the government is a dollar that is not being invested in our economy,” he says. “The immediate danger of the debt, and the one that speaks to people in the real world, is the fact that the debt is contributing to the fact that they don’t have a good job.”

Rubio, who has been in the news quite a bit lately talking up immigration reform, will raise the issue in the context of economic growth and opportunity. And while he will mention immigration this evening, it won’t dominate his appearance. Over the past several weeks, Rubio has run the conservative talk radio circuit in an attempt to sell that sizable chunk of the conservative movement on reform. While his principles for reform have been met with mixed reviews, with several pointing out a softening of the position he campaigned on three years ago, he’s mostly won praise even from those who don’t agree with him on the policy. 

But Rubio’s remarks will likely provide a contrast to the president in other ways, too – particularly on tone. Rubio’s speech, expected to run between twelve and fifteen minutes, will be broad and upbeat. Leaks from the White House about Obama’s speech suggest it will be “combative” and “aggressive” and “specific.” Rubio’s response won’t be soft – he intends to lay out for the American people exactly how the president attacks his opponents and mischaracterizes their arguments. And Rubio will be blunt about how he views Obama’s idea of America. “On issue after issue – there is virtually no problem in America that he thinks doesn’t have a government answer, from concussions in football to the weather.”

Rubio’s remarks will be personal, sharing stories he’s heard from friends, relatives, and constituents to translate esoteric Washington policy debates into solutions for the day-to-day problems that Americans are having. Rubio will talk in some detail about the American dream – not as an ill-defined concept popular in modern political rhetoric, but in terms of what it means to the parent of a newborn who sees in his child the promise of a great country. He will attempt to speak to those Americans who are concerned about the current state of the union and despondent about its future. And even in a time of despair for his party, Rubio is determined to be optimistic – about the country, about its politics and even about the prospect of agreement with an increasingly intransigent president.

“We’re not just here to block everything the president’s for,” Rubio insists. “We’re not against everything the president’s for, we’re only against the bad ideas.”

Which of the president ideas does Rubio think are the good ones, I wonder. 

Rubio laughs.

“That’s what we’re searching for,” he says. “We’re looking for a couple.”

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