2016 GOP candidates: It's time for a Republican president
© Getty Images

The huge field of potential GOP presidential candidates responded to President Obama’s State of the Union address with a message of their own on Tuesday: It’s time for the country to put a Republican in charge.

“I wish I had better news for you, but all is not well for America,” Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulThese Senate seats are up for election in 2022 I'm furious about Democrats taking the blame — it's time to fight back Rand Paul cancels DirecTV subscription after it drops OAN MORE (R-Ky.) said to begin his YouTube rebuttal to the president. “America is adrift. Something is clearly wrong. America needs many things, but what America desperately needs is new leadership.”


Paul was the most aggressive of the bunch, lambasting the president in a 12-minute YouTube address, mocking him on Twitter and fact-checking him on Facebook. In addition, Paul test-drove what could be the early framework for his message on the campaign trail, focusing on economic inequality and lifting people out of poverty by means other than the federal government.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker sought to draw attention to his record as governor, which would be his touchstone for a presidential run. Walker took aim at Obama's "top-down, government-knows-best philosophy," contrasting the political gridlock in D.C. with what he and other Republicans have accomplished at the state level.

"While Washington stands at an impasse, Americans are increasingly turning to state leaders for answers because we are pushing big, bold reforms,” Walker said in a statement. “Our American revival is not going to be led by a lame-duck president who would rather pick fights with Congress. It will be led ​by reformers who know how to get things done."

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) echoed that sentiment, arguing that Obama’s policies and goals "don't match up" and that the GOP is equipped to bring better solutions.

"I think he's exactly right when he says one of the fundamental challenges of our time is this disconnect of middle-class life in comparison to what it was in our country a decade or two decades ago. And there's this disconnect — people are being squeezed between the higher cost of living and paychecks that aren't keeping pace," he said. "The problem is that I think our ideas to solve them are better."

Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzHillicon Valley — Senate panel advances major antitrust bill Senate panel advances bill blocking tech giants from favoring own products Lawmakers press Biden admin to send more military aid to Ukraine MORE (R-Texas) said it’s “time to move beyond” Obama and instead focus on the “bold leadership” Republicans could provide to “bring back jobs, to bring back economic growth, to bring back opportunity, to rekindle the miracle of America.”

Obama gave the GOP contenders ample ammunition to attack his policies. The president announced Tuesday a plan to raise $320 billion through new taxes and fees on the wealthy and big banks that could be used to pay for free community college tuition, universal child care and additional tax credits for working-class families.

The two leading establishment contenders, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and 2012 GOP nominee Mitt Romney, focused their attacks on that growth of government services, arguing that the president has been misguided and divisive in his attempts to restore the middle class.

“We need to create economic opportunity for every American, especially middle class families and those trying to rise out of poverty,” Bush said in a Facebook post. “While the sluggish recovery has been good for some, far too many people have been left behind. It's unfortunate President Obama wants to use the tax code to divide us – instead of proposing reforms to create economic opportunity for every American. We can do better.”

Romney called the proposal “a maze of new taxes and complexities.”

“The best way to lower the tax burden on all American families is straightforward: lower rates and simplify the tax code,” the former Massachusetts governor said. 

In a statement, former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) accused Obama of lobbing "class warfare" bombs.

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) kept his statement brief and employed his standard folksy manner.

"Like everything with Obama, tonight's speech was all hat, no cattle," he wrote in a Facebook post.