Usually, the best-case scenario is that such speechmakers don’t mess up. The worst case is they look foolish. In 2009, Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) of Louisiana was tapped to reply to Obama’s first address to a joint session of Congress, right after his inauguration. Governor Jindal seemed perfect – a young, articulate minority (Indian-American) leader going up against the first black president. Instead, he was panned by even conservative pundits for both his words – “stale” rhetoric, said one – and his delivery, likened to Kenneth the page on the TV show “30 Rock.”
For Jindal, that episode remains a lingering negative as he reportedly considers his own 2016 presidential run. Contrast that with Obama’s national debut, his speech at the Democratic National Convention in 2004, or even Rubio’s address at the 2012 Republican National Convention introducing Mr. Romney.
Last August, Rubio arguably gave the best speech of the whole Tampa, Fla., convention. He spoke from the heart while discussing his family’s immigrant roots in Cuba and making the case for conservative principles.
On Tuesday, Rubio is expected to do the same thing: get beyond the dysfunction and ideological differences of Washington and reach Americans at their kitchen tables. Clearly, immigration reform will be an important topic. He is the most-watched member of the Senate’s bipartisan “Gang of Eight” trying to work out a compromise. And he has already made a major concession by endorsing a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants, which he used to call “code for amnesty.”