‘Kid Rubio’ can land a punch

After five State of the Union addresses by President Barack Obama, Republicans finally found a challenger who could stand and deliver a punch.

I’m not sure he’s a contender for the biggest stage yet. But he showed heart and an ability to connect his audience to the Republican worldview through his own narrative of struggle and success.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., climbed into the ring Tuesday without apparent fear of the failures of GOP responders past. He called “BS” on Obama’s big lie of better living through bigger government.

It was a straight-up good performance (sans the dry mouth moment, of course). But for the much beaten-down GOP, it was nothing short of magnificent. Compared to the duds of the past four rebuttals in the Obama era — Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan and Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels — Rubio flashed Cassius Clay-type brilliance.

“Kid Rubio” landed several solid punches to Obama’s glass spin. These were the high points GOP leaders may want to note:

— “Presidents in both parties — from John F. Kennedy to Ronald Reagan — have known that our free-enterprise economy is the source of our middle-class prosperity. But President Obama? He believes it’s the cause of our problems. That the economic downturn happened because our government didn’t tax enough, spend enough and control enough. And, therefore, as you heard tonight, his solution to virtually every problem we face is for Washington to tax more, borrow more and spend more.”

— “More government isn’t going to inspire new ideas, new businesses and new private-sector jobs. It’s going to create uncertainty.”

— “Mr. President, I still live in the same working-class neighborhood I grew up in. My neighbors aren’t millionaires. They’re retirees who depend on Social Security and Medicare. They’re workers who have to get up early tomorrow morning and go to work to pay the bills. They’re immigrants, who came here because they were stuck in poverty in countries where the government dominated the economy.”

— “So Mr. President, I don’t oppose your plans because I want to protect the rich. I oppose your plans because I want to protect my neighbors.”

— “ObamaCare was supposed to help middle-class Americans afford health insurance. But now, some people are losing the health insurance they were happy with. And because ObamaCare created expensive requirements for companies with more than 50 employees, now many of these businesses aren’t hiring. Not only that, they’re being forced to lay people off and switch from full-time employees to part-time workers.”

— “I would never support any changes to Medicare that would hurt seniors like my mother. But anyone who is in favor of leaving Medicare exactly the way it is right now, is in favor of bankrupting it.”

They won’t publicly admit it, but I will guarantee you that Rubio’s performance struck fear into the hearts of Democratic powerbrokers. Rubio articulated economic literacy in a personal way that connects with average voters. Instead of following Obama’s egocentric template, with the ever-present “I, I, I,” Rubio talked about the sacrifice of others, his family and his neighbors.

Now, as forceful and as effective as Rubio was, it was only one national moment in a long line of missed opportunities. Republicans will need much more of the same to knock down the Democrat vision of America, in which an expanding welfare state is a measure of success, not failure.

The GOP needs leaders who are unafraid to point out that it was runaway federal mandates, such as the Dodd-Frank mortgages to unqualified borrowers, that sparked the current recession. And now, President Obama boldly states that it is time to repeat the error with a new, federally backed refinance program for the unqualified? Unbelievable.

It would be good for the country if a resurgent GOP can swing the country’s politics away from the current Obama excess. To do that, America will need all the Rubios it can get.

Sherman Frederick, former publisher of the Las Vegas Review-Journal and member of the Nevada Newspaper Hall of Fame, writes a column for Stephens Media. Read his blog at

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