- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The tea party, at its highest levels, is not ready to bestow its unquestioning love on one of the two Republican responders to President Obama’s State of the Union address Tuesday — Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul or Florida Sen. Marco Rubio.

Mr. Rubio is delivering the GOP’s official response to President Obama, while Mr. Paul is delivering a response sponsored by the Tea Party Express.

“Both Rand Paul and Marco Rubio, from our standpoint, are elected officials who are fighting for tea party values of fiscal responsibility and constitutionally limited government,” Jenny Beth Martin, cofounder of the national Tea Party Patriots, told The Washington Times.

(SEE RELATED: State of Union response carries risk for Marco Rubio)

However, the Republican Party leadership’s choice of Mr. Rubio, the son of Cuban immigrants, to deliver the official response marks him in the eyes of many fellow Republicans as the establishment’s chosen spokesman, and as such, acceptable as the 2016 presidential nominee if he decides to go for it.

**FILE** Sen. Rand Paul, Kentucky Republican (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)
**FILE** Sen. Rand Paul, Kentucky Republican (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times) more >

Whether that official seal of approval for the man Time magazine put on its cover as the “The Republican Savior” is more helpful than harmful to his political aspirations is questionable.

“Whether fair or not, the party’s choosing Rubio to give the official response makes him look like the establishment candidate and Paul as the guy who will stand up to his own party,” said former GOP Virginia assemblyman and former state GOP chairman Jeff Frederick.

 

Mr. Rubio’s spokesman, Alex Conant, said having high-profile two responses is a good thing for the GOP.
“We’re glad Sen. Paul is doing his speech tonight. As far as we’re concerned, the more Republicans that are responding to the president, the better,” Mr. Conant said.

 

Mr. Paul unofficially launched his 2016 nomination bid with a visit to Israel last month in the company of some 40 American evangelicals and several prominent Jewish Americans — with private side excursions by Mr. Paul to Jordan and Palestine.

(SEE RELATED: GOP honors Ron Paul; Rand takes own path)

For those closely monitoring his actions, it was no surprise that he elected to give what he calls his own “tea party” response to the president  — or that he doesn’t explicitly deny that his move is an intentional clash with Rubio.

Mr. Paul, however, doesn’t view his speech as competing with Mr. Rubio but rather “as an extra response.”

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