By The Hill Editors - 02/12/13 12:54 AM EST
President Obama will grab the big spotlight with his State of the Union address, but another ray of attention will be focused on Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.).
Rubio will deliver the GOP rebuttal to Obama’s speech in one of the biggest moments of the freshman lawmaker’s political career. He will deploy both of the languages he speaks fluently, English and Spanish, and can be expected to talk about immigration reform.
Still, there are dangers for Rubio. In 2009, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) rebutted Obama in a speech that was widely panned. Rubio is a better speaker than Jindal, but the pressure will be intense.
The good news for Rubio is that, since 1966, there have been three politicians who delivered the opposition’s response to a State of the Union address who later became president: Gerald Ford, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, according to research compiled by CNN.
Rubio is the front-runner for the GOP nomination in 2016. But leading the pack four years before the next presidential election makes him a target.
Last year, Rubio stumbled in his audition to be Mitt Romney’s running mate. Yet, he seemed to learn a lot from that experience — he’s one of the most media savvy members of Congress, he doesn’t duck questions and he is usually adept at answering them on his own terms.
Rubio recently launched a public relations blitz ahead of Tuesday’s speech, appearing on the cover of Time magazine, which dubbed him the Republican “savior.”
The 41-year-old lawmaker then took to Twitter to say, “There is only one savior, and it is not me. #Jesus.”
It remains to be seen whether Rubio will mount a 2016 bid. But it is clear that he is trying to reshape the GOP so that a Republican president will be addressing Congress four years from now.