Rating Marco Rubio's Candidate-of-the-Future Pitch
Style B+: Rehearsed but not rote. A little stiff and severe at first, then found his flow, employing frequent smiles and a winning tone both conversational and commanding. As is often the case with Rubio speeches, played better in the room than on TV, which will serve him well when he’s at house parties wooing voters in Iowa and New Hampshire, and when he’s in penthouses courting donors. Allowed his evident youth to suffuse his message without self-consciousness or apology.
Substance B+: Rattled off a laundry list of ambitious domestic policy goals and a critique of President Obama’s foreign policy, without specifics, including on signature issues such as government spending. Took on Obama and Hillary Clinton without verging into mean spiritedness. Despite a lack of detail, offered a basic roadmap not always present in announcement speeches, all under the mantle of reform.
Best moment: The familiar homage to his immigrant father’s efforts to create opportunity for his family was delivered in a heartfelt and powerful manner.
Worst moment: A tentative, apparently nervous start drained some of the emotion from the room, requiring obvious exertion to regain momentum.
Overall B+: Ultimately hit his stride with a well-written speech animated by a tone and themes he has been delivering for as long as he has been in big-time politics. An energized and supportive crowd was eager to cheer their man on, but repeated audible shouts of encouragement sometimes made the event seem less presidential and more pep rally. His tomorrow-versus-today critique has the potential to work equally well against Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton. Some in the press will focus on the sneaked-in sips of water and occasional stumbles, but nevertheless a performance that preserves and extends what is most potent about Rubio’s candidacy. Weaves together biography, the American experience, and policy choices better than anyone in the field. He believes and feels what he is selling, and it shows.