It’s official: Marco Rubio is a national punch line.
After the Florida senator’s weird decision to interrupt his Tuesday rebuttal of the president’s State of the Union speech by taking a swig from a bottle of water, he was quickly mocked on The Daily Show, Colbert Report, Tonight Show with Jay Leno and the Late Show with David Letterman.
Four days later, Saturday Night Live worked him over.
But none of it means Rubio’s a joke.
His recovery from the gaffe has been serious business, a clear-eyed example of protecting a political brand as Rubio eyes a White House bid in four years.
Rubio quickly joined the chorus of mockers Tuesday night by poking fun at himself on Twitter. He posted a picture of the Poland Spring water bottle he grabbed. He then fund-raised off it.
The coverage and mockery perversely benefitted Rubio in another respect: It drew attention away from a speech that, in the eyes of liberals, deserved to be torn apart for misrepresenting the president’s record as well as Rubio’s.
“Don’t worry, Sen. Rubio, nobody noticed — that you gave a speech,” comedian Stephen Colbert joked Wednesday after devoting more than 40 percent of his almost half-hour show to Rubio’s water break.
By then, Rubio had already spent the day making fun of himself on TV.
Less than eight hours after his speech, Rubio appeared on ABC’s Good Morning America, where George Stephanopolous asked him what happened.
Rubio smiled, reached for a water bottle and took a swig. Stephanopolous laughed.
“You’ve shown an ability to laugh at yourself,” Stephanopolous said.
Said Rubio: “I needed water — what am I going to do? . . . God has a funny way of reminding us we’re human.”
Rubio gave a similar performance on Fox & Friends.
Then on Wednesday night, his political action committee Reclaim America PAC started selling $25 water bottles emblazoned with RUBIO in big red letters on a white background.
“Quench your thirst for conservative leadership? Order a bottle now,” Rubio advertised from his Twitter account.
This isn’t just political showmanship or boldness. It’s a type of alchemy, figuratively turning H2O into campaign gold.
All of that money flows back into a sophisticated brand-building operation boosting Rubio, as The Miami Herald’s partner paper, The Tampa Bay Times, details on the front page of today’s Herald.
Of the $1.7 million Rubio’s committee spent through Dec. 31, the lion’s share has been used to pay political consultants and underwrite travel for the senator throughout the nation, where many Republicans view him as the great Hispanic hope for their party as he helps lead a bipartisan push to reform immigration laws.
Rubio’s roots as the son of working-class immigrants and his ability to describe it all in vivid detail made him the obvious choice to deliver the Tuesday rebuttal to President Barack Obama’s speech.
Where Obama said “middle class” eight times in about an hour, Rubio said it 16 times in less than 15 minutes.
“Mr. President, I still live in the same working-class neighborhood I grew up in,” Rubio said Tuesday.
“My neighbors aren’t millionaires. They’re retirees who depend on Social Security and Medicare,” he continued. “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.”