Rubio to deliver State of the Union response

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., speaks at the BuzzFeed Brews newsmaker event in Washington, D.C., on February 5, 2013.
NICHOLAS KAMM / AFP / Getty Images

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., has been selected to deliver the Republican Party's response to President Obama's State of the Union address Tuesday night, congressional GOP leaders announced today.

The selection marks another milestone in Rubio's rapid rise among national Republicans. The Cuban-American senator, who first arrived on Capitol Hill after the GOP landslide of 2010, is a favorite among the tea party who commonly tops conservatives' 2016 presidential candidate wish lists.

In announcing the selection, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, praised Rubio, the son of Cuban immigrants, as "one of our party's most dynamic and inspiring leaders" whose family story "is a testament to the promise and greatness of America."

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., called Rubio "a natural choice to deliver" the GOP message because he "embodies the optimism that lies at the heart of the Republican vision of America."

For his part, the 41-year-old Rubio said he was "honored to have this opportunity to discuss how limited government and free enterprise have helped make my family's dreams come true in America."

"I look forward to laying out the Republican case of how our ideas can help people close the gap between their dreams and the opportunities to realize them," he said.

A Rubio aide tells CBS News that Rubio is writing the response himself and that he started writing it a few weeks ago. He was initially asked by McConnell whether he would be interested and immediately accepted the offer.

Being selected to deliver the response to a sitting president's State of the Union is a rarified honor - a high-profile gig typically reserved for emerging leaders viewed by the party apparatus as especially promising.

But the opportunity is not without its peril: while a strong performance can elevate, a disappointing performance can humiliate, burdening the career of a rising star with the long memory of a missed opportunity.

Gov. Bobby Jindal, R-La., thought to be eyeing a 2016 bid himself, was selected to deliver the Republican response to Mr. Obama's speech to a joint session of Congress in 2009.

The result was not pretty: Jindal's singsong delivery came across as overly forced, his message was criticized by both sides as uninspired and the talk of his lackluster performance lingered for years, resurfacing periodically in otherwise unrelated stories about Jindal's national political future.

If Rubio, a skilled orator, manages to avoid Jindal's fate, he may have his experience to thank: the GOP has elevated the Florida senator before as a spokesman for the party. Roughly a month after the 2012 election, Rubio accepted the Kemp Foundation Leadership Award and instructed a crowd of disconsolate Republicans to mind the "opportunity gap" in American society.

CBS News' Caroline Horn contributed to this report.