In addition to the officially sanctioned Republican Party response by Washington Rep.
And Kentucky Sen.
For a party fighting the perception it's at war with itself, the competing speeches were an unwelcome and very public reminder of the divisions that remain. Although there were some common themes focused on the economy and smaller government, the rival addresses highlighted the intraparty battles that could undermine the GOP's chances of winning key Senate contests this year.
"I wish we'd speak with one voice. I really do," said Sen.
Former New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman, the first woman to deliver a Republican response to the presidential address, said party unity is not what it was when she rebutted President Clinton's 1995 speech. "It's pretty indicative of where the party is these days," she said. "It's spread all over the place, and that's a challenge. It's a real problem."
In what was billed as the "Republican Address to the Nation," McMorris Rodgers said she wanted to share "a more hopeful, Republican vision — one that empowers you, not the government."
Like the other Republican responses, she acknowledged the growing opportunity gap among Americans, but blamed Obama. "Too many people are falling further and further behind because, right now, the president's policies are making people's lives harder," she said. "Republicans have plans to close the gap."
She also addressed the troubled rollout of
In more brash terms, Lee outlined what he called a "new conservative reform agenda," citing policy ideas from a rising generation of leaders, including Sen.
But rather than seek to build GOP support, Lee chastised his party, targeting his words to "those Americans who may feel they have been forgotten by both political parties.... To be fair, President Obama and his party did not create all of these problems. The Republican establishment in Washington can be just as out of touch as the Democratic establishment."
In addition to Republican disunity, the multiplicity of responses was a byproduct of fast-growing social media platforms, which have opened new venues for old-fashioned political egos and allowed lawmakers to easily and cheaply circulate their opinions.
In the past, if more conservative Republicans wanted to get their own message out, they had to purchase 60 seconds of airtime on television networks. On Tuesday, Paul simply had to videotape some remarks at the Senate's recording studio and have a staffer upload it to YouTube. The Tea Party Express streamed Lee's address, delivered at the National Press Club, through its website, which also served as a way to collect email addresses from potential contributors.
Obama may have helped spawn the trend in 2008 when he, as a tech-savvy presidential candidate, released his personal response to
No matter how it's done, staging a response that can compete with the pomp of a presidential address to
In recent years, Republican responses have been noted more for glitches and mishaps than for what was said. Remember
The potential for an embarrassing viral moment like Rubio's hasn't dimmed other politicians' interest in attempting to grab a bit of the spotlight, however. Although the Republican Party has complained that the tea party address overshadows its primary messenger, the GOP this year set up stations at the Capitol for rank-and-file members to record short video responses that can be posted to Vine, a Twitter-owned mobile app.
On the Democratic side, former Rep.
When asked whether the official rebuttal speech has outlived its usefulness, Sen.