Listen Again: Deconstructing Rubio's Talking Points

Feb 7, 2016

Marco Rubio got hit hard in Saturday's GOP debate, when Chris Christie accused the Florida senator of sticking to the same rehearsed lines over and over again. And for those few minutes, Rubio seemed unable to break script in the face of the attack.

To be fair, Rubio is certainly a candidate who's loyal to his stump speech. On his visits around New Hampshire, Rubio has essentially stuck to a trusty formula at town halls and rallies. So let's look at speech, and Rubio's classic talking points. Scroll through to read a brief breakdown, and listen to clips.

 [This audio is from Rubio speaking to voters at the Red Blazer Restaurant in Concord, Jan. 8, 2016. You can listen to Rubio's full speech at the bottom of this story. We did the same thing with a speech by Bernie Sanders last month.]

Rubio opens his speech with an idyllic vision of an America built by God, and then lays out all the ways that America is slipping away. The main characters of this story are "you" the voter, him the candidate, and God.

Rubio lays out the ways he sees President Obama as “obsessed” with making the country weaker. In starting to share his frustration and anger, he invites voters to feel the same. His message here is that he -- and he alone -- shares the anger that his audience feels.

Rubio brings in Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton for the first time. He spends a minute and a half aligning himself with working-class values, excluding Clinton from this discussion. Note: This section ends on a rare moment of laughter from the audience.

At one of the peak energy moments of his speech, Rubio emphasizes, again, that it’s “you” and he who can save America: “Congress can’t do the job, judges can’t do the job.” He proposes a “citizen-led convention of states.”

Rubio here makes the issue of immigration personal. He describes himself as the child of immigrants and enmeshed today in a vibrant immigrant community:  “I know every aspect of this issue. I know the good, the bad, and the ugly.” But instead of addressing Latin American immigration, he tells the audience that today immigration is a “new conversation,” making a quick pivot ISIS. Rubio asserts that ISIS is entering the country through the southern border. Listen up for his "house" metaphor here.

Now that he's gotten his audience to share in his anger, Rubio pivots to defense, to remind us how "weak" America is. He promises “real war on terror” in which suspected terrorists don’t get due process and get sent “straight to Guantanamo.” Rubio wraps this section up by thanking veterans and pledging to fix the VA. Here Rubio gets his longest stretch of applause.

Feeding off the energy he’s built, Rubio delivers one of his classic lines. He scrolls through the people who stand in the way of fixing the problems he's just laid out: President Obama, Hillary Clinton, and his Republican opponents.

In closing, he tells his listeners, “This election is a referendum on our identity,” and issues a call to action: "The time has come for us to do our part." In other words, "your part" includes voting for Rubio.  

Listen to the full audio of Rubio's speech: