(WASHINGTON) — Florida Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) was labeled his party’s “savior” by Time magazine last week and Tuesday he will be giving the Republican Party’s official response to the president’s State of the Union address, but Democrats are denying they see him as the new face of the GOP and therefore their political opposition.
“No, not necessarily,” said Democratic National Committee chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), when asked if the DNC now sees Rubio as the person who personifies its political opposition. Wasserman Schultz was speaking to reporters on a conference call to prebut Rubio’s Tuesday night response.
Wasserman Schultz said the response to her fellow Floridian was merely because he’s the person tasked with the response. The party regularly scheduled prebuttles of Mitt Romney speeches during the campaign, she noted. The focus of the call was to hit Rubio in advance of the high profile response, but the DNC also eagerly labeled the Republican star as a member of the GOP leadership.
“What is particularly unfortunate is that Sen. Rubio, really along with leadership of the entire Republican Party, has clearly not gotten the message from the voters following the election,” Wasserman Schultz said. “I mean their themes throughout the aftermath of the election, when they’ve been doing their top to bottom review, has been that they don’t think there is anything wrong with their policies. They think they just need to package them better.”
The chair noted “you can’t put lipstick on a pig,” hitting Rubio for supporting the Paul Ryan budget and entitlement reform saying he would end “Medicare as we know it.”
“I think because Sen. Rubio has been asked to do the rebuttal for the State of the Union, and he’s from Florida, and the major politics of the Republican Party — which they have not shied away since the election, despite the election results — make it so that he is particularly open to criticism,” Wasserman Schultz said. She did, however, note that the two “work well” together on behalf of the state of Florida and she does “respect his efforts to find common ground on many issues.”
The chairwoman, along with Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), also previewed the president’s State of the Union address. When asked by a reporter what the tone may be like, Van Hollen answered “positive,” although he noted he had not seen the speech.
“I think the president will focus on what we need to do to expand the economic recovery and support Americans and he will talk about the important investments in order to strengthen jobs and have greater shared prosperity,” Van Hollen said. He added that he expects the president also to focus on early education, higher education, job training programs, as well as the issue of the looming automatic spending cuts also known as the sequester.
Wasserman Schultz, also previewing the speech, said she thinks the president will include the need to address global warming and climate change as well as the sequester. In addition she thinks the president will address the continuing resolution to fund the federal government and the threat of a potential government shutdown. She said neither the “Republicans in the House [n]or Senate have said they are at all interested in working towards a balanced approach to dealing with either of those things.”
Wasserman Schultz said, “The essential discussion and the essential debate in this election was: Do we take a balanced approach to deficit reduction? Do we make sure that we make necessary spending cuts without cutting out the heart of our future — like education and innovation and helping research; or do we focus on a cuts-only approach to getting our economy turned around and addressing our deficit? And the American people chose very clearly which path and which vision they wanted to take.” She added that she thinks the president will tell Republicans that their “my way or the highway politics” is “harmful to our short term and long term future and global economy.”
The RNC responded to the call saying the Democrats were “scared” of Rubio and other GOP leaders.
“The Democrats hosting a defensive, 36+ hour prebuttal of Senator Rubio’s State of the Union response shows just how scared they are of our party’s deep bench of leaders like Rubio who are bringing actual solutions for creating jobs and getting our spending under control, unlike our current president,” RNC spokesperson Tim Miller said.
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