The opposition response to the State of the Union address is always a sketchy affair. It's penned without knowledge of exactly what the president will say, so it's intentionally partisan and vague. Tonight, new Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell took aim at some elements of Obama's speech that didn't exist. "Over-regulating employers won't create more employment; overtaxing investors won't foster more investment," bemoaned McDonnell tonight, for example. "Top-down one-size fits all decision making should not replace the personal choices of free people in a free market, nor undermine the proper role of state and local governments in our system of federalism." But one of Obama's more notable proposals tonight was to eliminate the capital gains tax for small businesses, and to use $30 billion of the money recouped from big banks to go to community banks. Likewise, they both made the same point about expanding energy programs, including nuclear energy. Still, many of McDonnell's points were on target, and the handling of his brief speech clearly showed that his party has learned some things from last year's disastrous rebuttal by Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal.
Here's what they've clearly learned:
1) Put a handsome, eloquent man up against that other eloquent, handsome man.
2) If that means sacrificing diversity, round up some diversity to put on camera in the background. How about an Asian dude, a black lady, a cute blonde, and a service member?
3) Put up an attractive family to compete with the attractive First Family.
4) For the love of God, include a live studio audience. After all the applause during the State of the Union, a speech without an eager audience is always going to seem flat.
5) Ditch the awkward, soft-toned entrance. Make it as presidential as possible, perhaps by filming it in a state house designed by Thomas Jefferson!
An additional flourish was the inclusion of a reference to Scott Brown, the Massachusetts Senator-elect who wasn't even invited to attend the State of the Union because he hasn't yet been certified. "As Senator-elect Scott Brown says," McDonnell cited, referring to the Detriot underwear bomber, "we should be spending taxpayer dollars to defeat terrorists, not to protect them." If we were McDonnell, we wouldn't have agreed to this line. This was his night to show himself as one of the new heroes of the Republican party. Why defer to a newer, flashier one?
The Huffington Post has a complete transcript of McDonnell's speech.