Sens. Marco Rubio and Rand Paul both came to office in the Tea Party wave of 2010 and they’ve both drawn attention for representing different traditions of the foreign policy spectrum on the right — a contrast that Jim Antle highlighted almost two years ago. As their influence within the Republican Party has grown — along with speculation surrounding their 2016 ambitions – others have made this observation. So, it was no surprise that the back to back speeches by Rubio and Paul were the most anticipated of the first day of the Conservative Political Action Conference.
What was interesting about their speeches, aside from the substance of what they were saying, was their differing styles and what that says about their approach to politics.
In his speech, Rubio was a story teller — talking about the struggles of middle class Americans who have worked hard and done all the right things, only to be stomped on by government — forced to bail out big banks and irresponsible homeowners.
In contrast, Paul was more interested in discussing first principles. Basking in the glory of his 13-hour filibuster, he explained, “My question to the President was about more than just killing Americans on American soil. My question was about whether Presidential power has limits.”
He went on to make the case for a conservatism that strictly adheres to the constitution, arguing, “For conservatives to win nationally, we must stand for something. We must stand on principle.”
As far as winning national elections goes, Rubio’s natural style and habit of illustrating his points with stories tends to be a better recipe for success. But Paul — with his filibuster the strongest example — has had success moving the debate in his more libertarian direction on balancing civil liberties and national security.