- Many pundits and observers of last night’s speech paid more attention to the style rather than the substance
- Many were looking for hints about Biden’s 2024 presidential prospects rather than significant policy details
- The reaction of Florida leaders was largely predictable, with Democrats praising, and Republicans panning the speech
For many, last night’s State of the Union address by President Joe Biden was less about substance and more about style, as they sought answers to the question of whether or not Biden is up to the task of completing his term and successfully running for reelection in 2024.
Among Democrats, who have already come to terms with the fact that he’ll likely be their nominee for president once more, the reception to last night’s speech was glowing and filled with praise. National Democrat party pundits on CNN and other networks marveled at the way Biden strategically goaded Congressional Republicans into a response by taunting them with accusations that they wanted to end Social Security and Medicare entitlements. And many Republicans in the gallery responded by heckling the president – which drew rebukes from several corners, including House Speaker Kevin McCarthy who was caught on camera attempting to “shush” the misbehaving members of his caucus.
Most Republicans, predictably, panned the speech for lacking both style and substance – with many taking deserving shots at Biden’s often-rushed delivery, erratic volume, and the occasional struggle to find the right words. And even in those rare moments when Biden hit his stride, Republicans said the substance was sorely lacking.
“Florida is the nation’s safeguard from Biden’s incompetence and weakness,” wrote Republican Party of Florida Communications Director Julia Friedland in an emailed response sent after the speech. “In fact, every time Joe Biden speaks in public, Florida’s population grows.”
On matters of substance, Biden touched on immigration, infrastructure, the economy, and healthcare, all critical components necessary for a successful 2024 reelection bid. And despite the growing possibility that Governor Ron DeSantis might prove to be a potential challenger for the White House, Biden completely avoided taking a shot at some of the more obvious developments looming in the Sunshine State.
One of the leading Florida critics of Biden’s speech as the night wore on proved to be Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, who reacted to Biden’s speech with clear dissatisfaction, ripping Biden’s plans in near real-time. Patronis used the speech as an opportunity criticize the President’s plan to expand the IRS by 87,000 new agents to target small businesses – while also promoting his own plan to combat the federal expansion.
“Based on that speech, get ready for more government, more taxes, more bureaucracy, and less freedom,” Patronis said. “At least I live in the Free State of Florida.”
Meanwhile, Brock Juarez, Deputy Chief of Staff for AHCA, expressed disappointment in the Biden Administration’s stance on Big Pharma, stating that they have shown no desire to work with Florida and are instead in the pockets of the biggest drug manufacturers.
“The Biden Administration talks a big game when it comes to Big Pharma,” said Juarez on Twitter. “However, when it comes to Canadian [drug] importation, they have shown zero desire to be good partners with Florida and continue to reveal they are in Pharma’s pockets. It’s been over 2 years.”
Juarez is referencing Florida’s 2019 request that sought federal permission to import prescription pharmaceuticals from Canada, which would result in lower pharmaceutical drug costs for consumers. Despite pressure from Florida officials and a filed lawsuit, the federal government has yet to respond to the request.
Following Biden’s remarks on social media safety, Democrat State Rep. Michelle Rayner-Goolsby hinted at a new bill she and GOP Rep. Tyler Sirois are introducing to regulate the ways that children use social media platforms, calling for bipartisanship on the issue. An early version of the bill includes a requirement that social media companies disclose certain information to users, including allegedly addictive features like “infinite scroll” and recommendation algorithms targeting minors. Rayner-Goolsby hinted that more information would be made public shortly.
“I agree with [the President] we MUST protect our children from social media companies,” she said. “This MUST be a bipartisanship issue, which is why I and [Rep. Tyler Sirois] are introducing a bill to protect our kids on social media platforms (HB591). Can’t wait to share more, soon!”
Biden largely ignored the question of border security, prompting the GOP side of the House chamber to occasionally grow unruly as they shouted for Biden to address the issue during the speech.
As Biden spoke about the nation’s growing fentanyl addiction problem, Sen. Rick Scott criticized Biden’s policies, claiming that they facilitated the spread of fentanyl in communities across the country. Scott also ripped Biden’s claims of inflation going down, pointing out that Americans are still struggling to make ends meet.
“[Joe Biden’s] open border is making our kids less safe,” tweeted Scott. “Fentanyl is devastating communities across the country.”
“Biden brags about inflation going down, but hard-working Americans are still struggling to put food on the table, afford gas, and make ends meet,” he continued.
Among Florida Democrats, Annette Taddeo, acknowledged the need to do more to reduce inflation and strengthen the middle class, as well as confront a more emboldened China.
Taddeo emphasized the need for a divided Congress to work with the President to deliver results for the American people and to ensure the US remains the leader of the free world.
“While there’s more we need to do to keep reducing inflation and strengthening our middle class, as well as making sure Ukraine wins and we confront a more emboldened China, the state of our Union is strong,” said Taddeo. “Now more than ever, [the President] needs a divided Congress to work with him to continue delivering results for the American people and to ensure we remain the leaders of the free world.”
Tampa-based U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor gets mixed reviews for her social media reaction to the president’s speech. Kudos for being one of the most prepared Members of Congress – Castor’s public relations staffers had a series of pre-planned Tweets ready to drop, complete with infographics about her legislative priorities. But the canned nature of her posts added little in the way of real-time reactions.
And finally, there’s the sheer joy of newly-minted Democrat Congressman Maxwell Frost’s excitement and anticipation at his first State of the Union address as he took a selfie waiting for the president to arrive:
— Maxwell Alejandro Frost (@MaxwellFrostFL) February 8, 2023