Florida Sen. Marco Rubio 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," Democratic National Committee chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) said on a conference call to "prebut" Rubio's Tuesday night response, when asked if they now see Rubio as the person who personifies their political opposition.
Wasserman Schultz said the response to her fellow Floridian was merely because he's the person tasked with the response and they regularly scheduled advance rebuttals of Mitt Romney speeches during the campaign. The focus of the call was to hit Rubio in advance of his high-profile appearance, but they also eagerly labeled the Republican star as a member of the GOP leadership.
"What is particularly unfortunate is that Sen. Rubio, really along with the 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."
She said, "You can't put lipstick on a pig," hitting the GOP at its attempts at inclusion as well as blasting Rubio for supporting Paul Ryan's budget cuts and pledge to 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 said earlier in the call that she and Rubio do "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 conceded 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, adding he thinks the president will also focus on early education, higher education, and job training programs, as well as the looming automatic spending cuts known as the sequester.
Wasserman Schultz previewed the speech as well, saying she thinks the president will include the need to address climate change and the sequester, as well as the continuing resolution to fund the federal government and the potential government shutdown. She said neither the "Republicans in the House or Senate have said they are at all interested in working towards a balanced approach to dealing with either of those things."
"The thing that is quite mind-blowing is that following the election, when 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," Wasserman Schultz said, adding that she thinks the president will tell Republicans that their "my way or the highway politics" is "really 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-plus 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.
Annette Capella, a senior citizen and former chairwoman of the Democratic Party in St. John's County, Florida, was also on the Democratic call to blast her senator. She called on Rubio and other politicians to "stop the partisan bickering and start working toward common goals."
"Isn't that what their oath of office requires them to do?" Capella asked on the press call. "One of those common goals should be preserving Social Security and Medicare for senior citizens like me."