Florida Senator Marco Rubio had the distinguished honor of delivering the Republican response to last Tuesday’s State of the Union address. However, Rubio’s counterarguments are not what made headlines. Instead, his messaging was overshadowed by an awkward moment when the Senator mid-speech paused to drink from a small bottle of water.
The incident exploded in traditional and social media, illustrating an unfortunate tendency in today’s political reality. Individuals and press outlets often latch onto irrelevant happenings and thereby allow those to eclipse the actual content of lawmakers’ proposed policies.
Following his address, Rubio immediately tweeted a photo of the water bottle, showing a self-deprecating sense of humor and an admirable degree of social media savvy. The Senator ended up gaining 13,000 new Twitter followers that evening.
In an ABC News interview afterwards, Rubio referred to the incident as a reminder that he is not perfect. “God has a funny way of reminding us we’re human,” Rubio said on Good Morning America.
Rubio not only did a commendable job of remaining lighthearted despite the criticisms, he even saw an opportunity to use the spotlight to his benefit. Less than 48 hours after the senator’s State of the Union rebuttal, a “Marco Rubio water bottle” was available online to anyone who donated $25 or more to Rubio’s PAC, Reclaim America. The fundraising tactic has raised more than $100,000 in less than a week.
In today’s world of immediacy and seeming endless criticism from online sources known and cloaked, those in the public eye often face unexpected complications requiring near-instant response. Rubio did an excellent job of appearing relatable by poking fun at himself and laughing off the water bottle gaffe for the trivial incident that it truly was. His team’s ability to pivot quickly and seize the narrow window of press attention turned an unforeseen challenge into an invaluable opportunity. Red Banyan Group will drink to that!
(For the record, Red Banyan Group is a non-partisan organization that believes that Democrats and Republicans should unite around the shared pursuit of adequate hydration.)