Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida will deliver the Republican Party's official response to President Obama's State of the Union address on February 12. The choice is just the latest evidence of how deeply invested the party is in Rubio, a Cuban-American who is leading a bipartisan effort to pass comprehensive immigration reform in Congress. And to underscore the GOP's play for Latino votes, Rubio will deliver the address in both Spanish and English. (Beat that, Obama!)
However, Rubio may have been wise to think twice about accepting the honor. Responding to the State of the Union is best known for crippling political careers, not helping them. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) seems to only just be recovering from his disastrous performance in 2009, which was panned as amateurish and awkward, most vocally by members of his own party. And Democrat Kathleen Sebelius was skewered for "her lack of humanness" and zombie-like delivery in 2008. The chosen spokesman of the opposition — who is usually located in a den of some kind, speaking into the camera with Mr. Rogers-like earnestness — can seem utterly small in comparison to the president, who will be addressing the country from the floor of the House, applauded by lawmakers of all stripes, and cloaked in the trappings of power. On top of that, relatively few Americans other than journalists and political insiders watch the response, which means you get all the bad press without any of the benefits of mass exposure.
But of course, if Rubio can pull it off, it would just add to his rapidly growing clout within the GOP.