Tea Party Choice of Lee Signals Messenger Matters in Response to Obama

Image: Tea Party Choice of Lee Signals Messenger Matters in Response to Obama

Tuesday, 28 Jan 2014 07:37 AM

By Elliot Jager

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The choice of Sen. Mike Lee to give the tea party's response to the State of Union address Tuesday night suggests the "insurgent right appears to be developing some self-awareness that its message demands a better messenger," writes Jonathan Riehl in Politico Magazine.

In opting for the "mild-mannered Mormon Eagle Scout" over the "bomb-throwing" Sen. Ted Cruz the tea party is expressing a willingness to reach a broader segment of Americans," says Riehl, a political communications consultant.

A majority of Republicans hold favorable attitudes toward the tea party, but 51 percent of Americans overall have unfavorable view of the political movement, Gallup reported in December following a random sampling of 1,031 adults.

Republican Lee of Utah and Cruz of Texas differ in "rhetorical style and demeanor" rather than substance. Viewers who wait up for the response to President's Barack Obama's speech are likely to see "an amiable Utahan, an average man who speaks with a heartfelt and moderate tone," Riehl writes.

"Could this be the new face of the tea party?" Riehl muses about the choice of Lee.

Although he isn't known for having 2016 presidential ambitions, "the choice to have Lee serve as messenger itself sends a message," he adds.

While some say the message of the tea party is "politically, demographically and electorally" on shaky ground, irrespective of the messenger, Riehl says Lee could yet turn out to be the Ronald Reagan of the tea party.

Lee's invitation to supporters via Facebook to send him ideas for his response to Obama's address has drawn thousands of responses.

The senator is scheduled to deliver his remarks after House Republican Conference Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington presents the official party response. Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky also planned to make available his own recorded response to the president through social media and television feeds, according to Business Insider.

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