Some Republicans Fear a Disorderly Response to Obama's Speech

Image: Some Republicans Fear a Disorderly Response to Obama's Speech Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, left, and Sen. Rand Paul

Monday, 27 Jan 2014 10:55 AM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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There will be more than one Republican response to the State of the Union address Tuesday night, with lawmakers taking to video, social media and more to offer their own critiques of President Barack Obama's televised speech to the nation.

House Republican Conference Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington will deliver the party's official response, but other key party members plan to offer unofficial responses through a variety of media, reports The New York Times.

Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul plans to record a video rebuttal that will be made available to television outlets and posted on Twitter, Facebook, and Snapchat. At the same time, Republican Sen. Mike Lee of Utah will deliver the tea party response, which Paul delivered last year.

Republican strategist Mark McKinnon, a frequent critic of his own party, said the variety of GOP-based responses indicates there "is no clear leadership in the Republican Party right now, no clear director or message, and no way to enforce discipline. And because there's a vacuum, and no shortage of cameras, there are plenty of actors happy to audition."

That worries Republican leaders, who will try on Tuesday night to corral lawmakers after the speech, in an effort to control the message, the Times reported. Members coming out of the House chamber following the address will be herded into rapid-response booths, where they'll be able to record six-second videos through Vine, a video service owned by Twitter.

Members are being urged to focus on Democratic claims that the Republican-controlled House has done little legislatively this past year other than oppose Obama on everything.

"The message development for the party and on Capitol Hill has been flipped," acknowledged GOP strategist Kevin Madden, a former aide to House Speaker John Boehner. "It used to be that congressional leadership could develop the broad outline of the party’s message, and everyone else could echo it. We’re no longer in a place where members are echoing leadership. They’re competing with leadership."

But response speeches can go awry, and mistakes can happen when politicians respond to the State of the Union address. Last year, when Florida Sen. Marco Rubio ducked down about 11 minutes into his remarks to get a sip of water, he became the butt of jokes, and Rep. Michele Bachmann had difficulties in 2011 when she looked into the wrong camera while delivering the first tea party response.

The president is a difficult act to follow, former Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle told the Times. He should know, he delivered his party's response to George W. Bush's 2004 State of the Union address as well as being part of Democrat teams that responded to Ronald Reagan in 1983 and 1986.

"Any time you can have an audience that stands and applauds at virtually every sentence, it's an enormous disadvantage to have to speak to a camera by yourself afterwards," Daschle said.

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