What Rubio did tonight was to give one of the toughest types of speeches to give in American politics. It would be a tough job for a veteran senator, let alone a first-termer. Very difficult to follow the president who has the benefit of 1) being president, 2) the experience of giving many big speeches and 3) a live audience. That's why very few of these responses have been considered a success or memorable.
Providing the opposition party response is a bit thankless. As Frank points out, you're following a speaker who has every advantage. The immediate comparison is very difficult, but Rubio was overall composed and solid. But, yes, his awkward water break will be Internet gold.
In many ways, Rubio's response was a deeply personal speech.
On four occasions, Rubio brought his experience into play. He used it to talk about higher education and medicare. But perhaps most significantly, he used his experience to combat the attack that the GOP only cares about rich people.
"Mr. President, I still live in the same working class neighborhood I grew up in. My neighbors aren't millionaires. They're retirees who depend on Social Security and Medicare. They're workers who have to get up early tomorrow morning and go to work to pay the bills. They're immigrants, who came here because they were stuck in poverty in countries where the government dominated the economy.
"The tax increases and the deficit spending you propose will hurt middle class families. It will cost them their raises. It will cost them their benefits. It may even cost some of them their jobs.
"And it will hurt seniors because it does nothing to save Medicare and Social Security."
We only posted the water gif because many of you are talking about it in the chat. It is now circulating online already and becoming a meme.
The speeches do get written in advance, and it's not too hard to anticipate what the President will speak of based on the big issues of the day, and the proposals before Congress.
On the water-drinking gif, I understand why some people are upset about that. But keep in mind that we've posted it in a chat, while we're all gathered talking about the speeches. It's something people are going to be talking about it's interesting (in a chat) to note that this gif was created instantly.
I remember back in the day when the Tea Party response was actually on TV. Right now, it's streaming at Tea Party Express's web site. Not even Fox is carrying it.
A line from Paul: "Bipartisanship is not what's missing in Washington. Commonsense is." Many Americans would argue that both are missing.
Folks, we're starting to wind down the chat here as our live special coverage on the air wraps.
Frank, Erica and Elise thanks for inviting me to join the chat tonight. And thanks to the 'chatters' for such good observations and questions.
Well, we hate to end the fun but we''re ending our efforts for the evening. Thanks to all who joined our NPR.org live-chat coverage of President Obama's 2013 SOTU speech and the Republican response. Thanks, also, for all your comments. Sorry we couldn't get more of them in the stream. Keep listening to NPR and reading NPR.org.