It’s clear Florida Senator Marco Rubio has a thirst for a bigger career. And it’s too early to tell, but early Twitter reaction is focusing less on the content in Rubio’s State of the Union rebuttal speech than his apparent burning thirst — which required him to drink water on camera.
It was not subtle; it was a big gulp (with apologies to 7Eleven).
You’ll hear and read more about Rubio — Democrats will say he was awful and many Republicans will proclaim his rebuttal one of the finest speeches delivered by anyone in the United States or any other country. But here’s a quick collection of Twitter reaction:
Groans at tv monitors in statuary hall when rubio reached for the water. Of such small moments are epochs made?
13m Patricia Zengerle ?@ReutersZengerle
Marco Rubio thirsts for change. Marco Rubio dryly noted the defects in Obama’s speech. Rubio: Obama’s speech was all wet. Care for more?
13m Larry Sabato ?@LarrySabato
I’m going to be kind and call The Big Gulp a humanizing moment. Mayor Bloomberg would try to ban it.
13m Larry Sabato ?@LarrySabato
At what phrase was Rubio required to drink?
16m Larry Sabato ?@LarrySabato
Maybe Poland bottled water sponsored this GOP response?
17m Patricia Zengerle ?@ReutersZengerle
If only Rubio had reached down and grabbed a Corona … or even an American beer.
Retweeted by Larry Sabato
17m Larry Sabato ?@LarrySabato
Uh-oh. Water gulp–really bad TV optics. SNL, Colbert, Stewart…here they come.
Dick Polman ?@DickPolman1
What was up with that water bottle? Maybe that was Rubio’s drinking game. One gulp for every 50 attacks on the role of government.
Look up “Marco Rubio” on Twitter and you get these (a cross section):
When all the opposition can say is ‘you drank water’ –you really kicked their butts. Good job @marcorubio
10m Ivan Roberson ?@Ivanroberson
Marco Rubio Bombs in #SOTU Rebuttal/2016 Audition http://www.politicususa.com/marco-rubio-bombs-sotu-rebuttal2016-audition.html … via @politicususa
Retweeted by HOPE from nyc
On a positive note, at least Marco Rubio didn’t get hungry during his speech. #GOPRebuttal
Followed by Michell Eloy and 1 other
@marcorubio Bless his heart. Why do Republican’s rise and burn out so fast?????
14m ElmObamaTwoTermz ?@lordxmen2k
Clint Eastwood Had An Empty Chair Problem, Marco Rubio Has A Cottonmouth Problem #SOTU2013
Collective response from Americans after Marco Rubio’s speech: “WTF was that?!?!?”
15m Don Millard ?@OTOOLEFAN
Looking forward to the Marco Rubio water bottle skit on SNL, lmao.
Followed by Chris Wade and 5 others
I hope Saturday Night Live has a field day with the Marco Rubio stumble, gulp, and water grab. That speech was clumsy and terrible.
19m Ronan Farrow ?@RonanFarrow
You thirsty, Marco Rubio, or is your throat just parched with hypocrisy?
20m Sanda Ann ?@sandray8s
I’m sorry, did Marco Rubio say something? #RepublicanResponse
21m Alden Schofield ?@aldenm3
For a minute there I though Marco Rubio was going to Waterboard himself, grabbing that water bottle in middle of his speech.
Followed by wd8pvm and 9 others
22m ElmObamaTwoTermz ?@lordxmen2k
Marco Rubio Sounds Like A Comedian, He Even Has Some Bottled Water On Top of The Stool. #SOTU2013
23m Cameron Gray ?@Cameron_Gray
I haven’t seen a guy as nervous as Marco Rubio since I asked that girl to the prom
23m Paul Begala ?@PaulBegala
Marco Rubio: the man you want to have a desperate gulp of water with.
23m Dr. Jill Biden ?@JillBidenVeep
Marco Rubio is playing his own drinking game. #Respect
Retweeted by Little Australia
24m ElmObamaTwoTermz ?@lordxmen2k
Marco Rubio Licks His Lips More Than LL Cool J #SOTU2013
27m ElmObamaTwoTermz ?@lordxmen2k
RuBiOMBED: Marco Rubio Makes Bobby Jindal SOTU Speech Look Good #SOTU2013
27m Alden Schofield ?@aldenm3
Marco Rubio is not ready for prime time. Presentation reminds of a Freshman College communications class. #p2
32m Newt Gingrich ?@newtgingrich
Marco Rubio is doing an excellent job delivering a very powerful and compelling speech
The most glowing response to Rubio comes from conservatives such as the Washington Post’s columnist Jennifer Rubin:
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) did not disappoint tonight, showing a fresher face and more dynamic brand of conservatism –- presented by a fresher and more dynamic face. He appeared relaxed and jovial throughout, hardly the stereotype of the angry Republican. Standing in front of the window was a helpful framing — making him “fill up” the screen, if you will. As a TV communicator he did the best job of any State of the Union respondent I can recall. His delivery was briefly marred by grabbing for a swig of water, which depending on your view was either a “real moment” or a rookie error.
Suddenly, bafflingly to all the commenters, from social media personalities to MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, Rubio—mid thought—lurched forward to grab a drink of water, took an audible gulp, returned the small Poland Spring bottle to a table and continued with his speech.
“The choice isn’t just between big government or big business,” he began before reaching for the refreshment. “What we need is an accountable, efficient and effective government that allows small and new businesses to create middle class jobs.”
But he had lost so, so many by that point, who would go on to create GIFs, create a @thirstyrubio Twitter account, and tweet their wittiest response to the reach that would be forever preserved in slow-motion graphics.
The reality: it’s very early in the game in the 2016 Republican Presidential nomination. How many times have we seen likely nominees a year (or less) after an election being touted as great political hopes and fizzle out? Quite often. In reality, Rubio will now give comedians, Andy Borowitz, SNL, Democrats, and bloggers who can’t resist a political comedy set up line a godsend of material for a week or so.
After that? If he’s smart (he is) he’ll show up on Letterman or Leno or Stewart and swig water throughout his interview. He can defuse this (read this Washington Post report that focuses totally on the content of his speech and doesn’t get into the imagery or the water.)
But was it a great start and a great speech? For Republicans, maybe yes. He delivered enough to keep them happy. But was it the kind of home run some Republican spinners had predicted? N-o-p-e.
He’ll be able to live — and drink — for another day.
(NOTE: This has been slightly tightened up from its original version.)
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.