Rep. Curt Clawson (R-Fla.) offered a sunny take on conservative values during the Tea Party State of the Union response, focusing more on the positives than some of his predecessors while taking fewer shots at President Obama.


Clawson, a businessman and former college basketball star who won a special election last year, framed the Tea Party as an inclusive movement.

"The Tea Party Express and I see an America where solutions rest not in big government but in personal liberties, in free enterprise and in the opportunity for all to pursue their own American dream regardless of race, creed or conditions of birth," he said in the speech.

The Tea Party has faced a rough few elections — Democrats defeated many in 2012 of those who identify with the Tea Party and establishment Republicans blocked out others during the 2014 cycle — and Clawson is not as high-profile a speaker as the Tea Party Express has landed in earlier years. Previous responses came from Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), in 2014, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), in 2013, businessman Herman Cain, in 2012, and Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), in 2011.

Clawson, one of a handful Republicans who voted against Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) last month, mostly stayed away from the fiery rhetoric the movement has become associated with. He emphasized his support for more legal immigration rather than attacking illegal immigration, promising in Spanish that "our house is your house," and even quoted a former Democratic president — John F. Kennedy — to argue for tax cuts.

"We believe in economic liberty and equal opportunity – not equal outcomes imposed by a bloated federal government," he said.

Clawson touted the teamwork he learned at Purdue University to argue the country would be better off with smaller government, encouraging trust between those holding differing viewpoints.

"At Purdue, our biggest challenge was not the other team. It was in our own locker room. To win we had to learn to work together. That was true for the role players on the team — like me — as well as it was for the stars," he said.

Even when throwing red meat to the conservative base, Clawson made sure to include alternative policy proposals.

"We also need to lift the economic shackles of ObamaCare. It makes us uncompetitive – and has not let us keep our plans, as we were promised," he said. "We can do better. We’ve got to replace ObamaCare with a fair, patient-focused, market-based system. And no one should lose their healthcare."

Clawson had no major stumbles through the speech — always a risk during State of the Union responses. But the Tea Party Express livestream went up early, allowing viewers see a woman wipe sweat off his brow before the speech began. Just before he started speaking, Clawson smiled and gave a few fistpumps to someone off-camera.

David McCabe contributed.