His smoothly delivered State of the Union response showed his major weakness as a speaker: the staleness of his rhetoric.
People say Marco Rubio is a good speaker. I see why they say it. He's warm. Polished enough. He has a nice smile. He exudes what seems like earnestness. If Arrested Development's Lucille 2 had to take a GOP presidential contender as her escort to a charity auction at the Balboa Bay Club, Rubio is the one she'd invite.
But I can hardly stand to hear him speak.
I'm a more consistent proponent of free-market policies than he is, I enjoy listening to old Ronald Reagan speeches, and I think government is too big. But listening to Rubio talk about all that?
It makes me feel like ... argh, it's hard to explain.
Do you know the feeling of hearing a song you like, but quickly realizing it's Muzak? Can you imagine being stuck on an island with a favorite novel, but the Cliffs Notes version? What if someone asked you to close your eyes and imagine how a fresh strawberry tastes, and then put a Jolly Rancher on your tongue? Listening to Rubio makes me feel like those things happened.
Here's my imagined version of how his speeches are written: Milton Friedman's Free to Choose is condensed into a Reader's Digest article; that article is summarized in a standardized test for fifth graders with all the words above their reading level replaced; the students are asked to highlight the most important passages on their test sheet; those passages are copied onto note cards and sent to Florida, where they are focus-grouped on conservative octogenarians; the cards that test as most "familiar" are sent to the Rubio communications shop in D.C. and mashed up with whatever Ronald Reagan lines are on BrainyQuote.com.