Less than a year ago, Representative Curt Clawson was fighting in a contentious special election for Florida’s 19th District. Today, just days after being sworn in for his first full term in the House of Representatives, he prepares to give the Tea Party response to the State of the Union.
Insistent on remaining independent of any political party, the Tea Party began giving their own response to the State of the Union address in 2011, inviting elected officials and public figures such as Herman Cain and Senator Mike Lee who embodied Tea Party principles. Now it is Clawson’s turn, and though new to Washington, he is eager to respond to President Obama.
Indeed, Clawson is new not just to Washington, but to politics, only jumping into the special election race for the office vacated by Representative Trey Radel. Among other things, Clawson’s outsider status earned him the Tea Party support that was essential to his election to Congress. Endorsements from Senator Rand Paul and Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, both of whom have given Tea Party State of the Union address in the past, certainly didn’t hurt.
Tonight he goes from political neophyte to a center-stage figure. But it isn’t the first time Clawson has gone head-to-head with Barack Obama. Upon entering the race for Florida’s 19th District in January of 2014, Clawson ran an ad during the Super Bowl comparing his basketball skills to the president’s. (Clawson was co-captain of his Purdue Boilermakers during the 1980s.) The ad is odd, fun and – like Clawson – outside the beltway.
The Tea Party looks to continue its message that big government – currently under Obama, but no party is exempt – has failed the American people, with unemployment still lower than pre-recession levels for many parts of the country and inequality and debt continuing to rise. If the Tea Party is looking for someone who can speak about fresh solutions, they could hardly find someone better that Congressman Clawson, who took a debt-riddled, multinational company and turned it around, saving hundreds of jobs in the process.
Clawson is not the only newcomer to Washington to give a response to President Obama’s address tonight. First-term Senator Joni Ernst of Iowa delivers a second conservative perspective on the State of the Union as well. “Ask Democrats if they think there’s a shortage of tea-party members in Congress,” Clawson told National Review’s Andrew Johnson, citing his and Ernst’s speaking slots tonight.
He noted that he didn’t come to seek the spotlight, only to broaden the audience of the Tea Party message. Still tonight’s response could launch him to national recognition. Is he ready? It will be no surprise if, as he did at Purdue, in business and in his campaign, Clawson brings his A-game.