The multiple faces of the GOP response to the president

Published: Tuesday, Jan. 28 2014 11:52 a.m. MST

In this Oct. 16, 2013, file photo, Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, left, and Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, walk to the Senate floor to vote on a bill to raise the debt ceiling and fund the government on Capitol Hill in Washington.

Evan Vucci, Associated Press

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Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers will deliver the GOP response to President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address tonight. According to PBS Newshour, it has been more than a decade since a female Republican lawmaker has given the response to the address. McMorris is the highest ranking Republican woman in Congress and chairs the House Republican Conference.

But the traditional opposition response is falling out of favor with a splintered Republican Party. As reported by the New York Times, Sen. Mike Lee is set to deliver the official tea party response to the president, which will compete with the official GOP response.

“There is no clear leadership in the Republican Party right now, no clear direction or message, and no way to enforce discipline,” Mark McKinnon, a veteran Republican strategist, was quoted as saying in the New York Times. “And because there’s a vacuum, and no shortage of cameras, there are plenty of actors happy to audition.”

And it is not just the tea party and the Republican Party that will be contending for attention. Sen. Rand Paul plans to record a video rebuttal that will be made available to television outlets and social media, according to News Max.

GOP strategist Kevin Madden, a former aide to House Speaker John Boehner, acknowledged that this illustrates deep division within Republican ranks. “The message development for the party and on Capitol Hill has been flipped,” Madden told News Max. “It used to be that congressional leadership could develop the broad outline of the party’s message, and everyone else could echo it. We’re no longer in a place where members are echoing leadership. They’re competing with leadership.”

However, according to the Tea Party Express, the political action committee (PAC) behind the official tea party response, Lee could cause a “conservative awakening.”

Lee was elected to represent Utah in the Senate in 2010. According to the PAC, Lee “has proven to be an effective leader within the Senate, offering tangible solutions in the face of Obama’s empty rhetoric. As we enter into another significant election year, we expect Senator Lee’s response will offer a message relevant to the current challenges we face under this administration and how we can meet those challenges together.”

Republicans around the country are upset with their leadership. We will have to wait and see whether or not these multiple responses to the president add to the debate or just act to muddle their own message.

Erik Raymond is experienced in national and international politics. He relocated from the Middle East where he was working on his second novel. He produces content for DeseretNews.com. You can reach him at:

eraymond@deseretdigital.com

@RaymondErik

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