Josh Barro identifies the main problem with Rubio’s speech:
The Republican Party’s problem isn’t the messenger; it’s the broad economic message. To fix the message, Republicans need to be for smart government. They need to signal that they have a serious policy agenda that considers programs and regulations on a case-by-case basis, rather than just demagoguing the government. They need a real agenda on health care and jobs rather than just opportunistic opposition to anything the president does.
Michael Grunwald had the same thought:
If Republicans believe that they lost in 2012 because Romney was a boring rich white guy who alienated Hispanics, they got to see a charismatic Cuban-American with humble roots but otherwise indistinguishable positions on every issue except for immigration.
McArdle, on the other hand, calls Rubio’s speech “the most effective SOTU response I’ve ever seen”:
I’m not grading the policy content of the speech, mind you–though as an aside, let’s just say that I’m not a fan of false claims that the GOP can get the economy up to 4% growth by unleashing the awesome power of the free market. But Rubio mounted the most effective response I’ve seen to the President’s attacks on Republicans as uncaring obstructionists, and he delivered it well.
Tomasky felt that Rubio lacked gravitas:
His voice doesn’t have enough depth to it. He looks sort of young, as many have observed, but he sounds younger, and that’s the issue. He comes across like the proverbial substitute teacher. You know you can throw spitballs in his class, and he’s not going to have the authority to make you stop.
Ed Morrissey liked the speech:
[A]t least rhetorically, Marco Rubio took the correct path in responding to the usual SOTU laundry-list speech. In his rebuttal, Rubio stayed away from offering the Republican legislative agenda, and instead stuck to the Republican and conservative philosophies of governing and economics.
And Friedersdorf heard nothing new from Rubio:
What Rubio does best is movement conservative boilerplate, so that’s mostly what he does, but he doesn’t make any effort to freshen up the ideas, or even to freshen up the rhetoric he uses to express the ideas. When he starts talking, it’s like when the Dave Matthews Band song comes on, the one you liked the very first time you heard it 15 years ago, but then the guy across the hall played it on repeat for all of sophomore year, and now when the lyrics play you can’t even conceive of them as words with a meaning.