WASHINGTON - Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) delivered a concise, lawyerly response to President Barack Obama's State of the Union address Tuesday night, choosing to reiterate his core message for what he hoped was a wider than usual audience.
Paul, who is considering a run for president in 2016, spoke for roughly 10 minutes and stayed focused largely on his argument that jobs are created when taxes are low and regulations are kept to a necessary minimum, and not by government spending.
"Money and jobs flow to where they are welcome," Paul said, speaking directly to a camera inside a wood-paneled room.
His speech, an online response streamed on YouTube and social media, felt more like a seminar or instructional video than a rhetorical performance. Paul has always eschewed attempts at speechifying, but on a night when the president spoke for over an hour, the contrast was stark.
Paul began by briefly explaining his view of how the current economic crisis came about, arguing that the Federal Reserve had kept interest rates "too low for too long," the government had encouraged risky lending, and a bubble was created that cost millions of jobs when it popped.
He then moved on to Obama's response, criticizing the 2009 stimulus bill and the president's attempts to invest in alternative energy projects like Solyndra.
And then Paul described his proposal for "economic freedom zones" in areas around the country hit hard by the recession: urban, rural, and in between. He first mentioned the idea in December during a trip to Detroit.
Obama, meanwhile, announced a proposal for "promise zones" last year, and in January identified five cities in which he intends to pursue the idea. But Paul said the two proposals differ in that the president's is an investment of federal dollars, while his own is an attempt to stop the government in Washington from collecting that money in the first place.
Paul hammered again on his belief that "government is inherently bad at picking winners and losers," and that customers in localities should decide with their checkbooks which businesses and organizations thrive and survive, and which go under.
The senator lamented the high unemployment rate and the high level of debt hanging over the federal government.
And he closed with comments about the value of hard work, and some pointed criticism of "those who entice us with the easy way out" and preach a "politics of envy."
"Hard work and sweat invigorate the spirit and provide a solace no government program will ever achieve," he said.
His speech had a different focus than others delivered by Republicans Tuesday night in response to Obama. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash), who gave the GOP's official response, focused on humanizing the party with a soft-focus, autobiographical speech. Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) challenged the tea party, of which he is a respected member and for whom he was speaking, to move "from protest to progress," outlining the broad contours of a reform agenda for conservatism.
Paul, meanwhile, continued to prosecute his case that Republicans can make a difference in alleviating poverty and economic insecurity with proposals that are fundamentally and philosophically different than the president's.
UPDATE: Wednesday, 12:20 p.m. -- Spokesmen for Paul, Lee and GOP leadership all confirmed that there had been no coordination between them. A Republican leadership aide, speaking without authorization, said that leadership offices were in fact "unhappy" with Paul for "such a blatant, self-promoting move" that lent itself easily to stories that the party remains divided.
An aide to Paul said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky), who has a complicated relationship with his fellow Kentucky senator, had not directly expressed his displeasure.