Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) will deliver a “tea party response” to President Obama’s State of the Union address on behalf of the organization Tea Party Express.
The speech pits Paul against Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, who will deliver the official Republican response to Obama’s speech Tuesday night. Both Paul and Rubio are considered likely presidential contenders in 2012.
Like the official response, the tea party speech is not without risk. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) was widely mocked for the Tea Party Express-backed response to the State of the Union address that she gave in 2011, in which she appeared to be looking into the wrong camera. Republican aides were already annoyed that CNN agreed to air her remarks in their entirety because they were concerned that showing Bachmann’s speech alongside the official GOP response from Rep. Paul Ryan would make the party look conflicted.
But Paul has been positioning himself as the conservative choice in the 2016 GOP presidential primary, and delivering a non-establishment rebuttal to Obama’s address only bolsters his credentials in that role.
Tea Party Express Chairman Amy Kremer’s announcement makes it clear that Paul will have some competition. She praised the GOP for choosing Rubio, a “Tea Party conservative,” to speak. Rubio and Paul “will articulate pro-growth messages that will resonate with the American people,” she said.