Skip to main content

Rubio, Ryan, start using political capital

By Ana Navarro, CNN Contributor
updated 11:22 AM EST, Wed December 12, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Ana Navarro: Paul Ryan, Marco Rubio featured at Jack Kemp Foundation awards
  • She says both have political capital in the bank; they should use it to represent for GOP
  • She says Rubio and Ryan projected positive, inclusive vision for the 100% in America
  • She says Rubio in particular, has classic American backstory. GOP needs to promote this

Editor's note: Ana Navarro, a Republican strategist and commentator, served as national Hispanic campaign chairwoman for John McCain in 2008 and national Hispanic co-chair for Jon Huntsman's 2012 campaign. Follow her on Twitter @ananavarro.

(CNN) -- Last week, I attended the Jack Kemp Foundation Awards. After an election that has many a Republican feeling down, remembering Jack Kemp was just what the doctor ordered.

I met Jack Kemp a few times. He was fun and funny. He was energetic, dynamic and positive. He was pragmatic and inclusive. He believed in being a constructive force that helped move the debate forward.

The last time I saw Kemp was in 1997 at his Empower America office. I was with a group of Florida Republicans advocating for passage of legislation called the Nicaraguan Adjustment and Central American Relief Act to help Central Americans facing deportation. We were there to ask for his support . He lent a helping hand and exerted influence with his former colleagues to get it done. The Jack Kemp I knew was a freedom fighter. He fought for economic freedoms, personal freedom, and freedom around the world.

Politics: Obama, Rubio offer different prescriptions for middle class

Ana Navarro
Ana Navarro

Part of the reason Jack Kemp made a difference, is because he understood there was no point to having political capital if you did not use it. He was not afraid to speak up, to call others to action and lead. The two recipients of the Kemp Foundation awards so far, are Rep. Paul Ryan (2011) and Sen. Marco Rubio (2012).

Both Ryan and Rubio have political capital in the bank. It's their time to use it to lead the Republican Party and make a difference in our country. Ryan has the recognition and pulpit that comes from having been on a national ticket. Rubio is a star in the conservative base and, in my opinion, one of the best orators in politics today.

Become a fan of CNNOpinion
Stay up to date on the latest opinion, analysis and conversations through social media. Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion and follow us @CNNOpinion on Twitter. We welcome your ideas and comments.



In their speeches last week, they articulated a vision for a prosperous America, a better tomorrow. They did not preach about divisive social issues. They talked about representing everyone, entrepreneurship, opportunity. They didn't sound angry, they sounded optimistic.

Rubio comes from a family of limited means. His father was a bartender until his old age. I remember Mario Rubio as a small and sinewy man with the humble and respectful manner of those who never held important titles or had healthy bank accounts. The last time I saw him was the day former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani's endorsed Marco Rubio in 2010. The elder Rubio was already suffering from the cancer that would take his life a few weeks before his son was elected to the U.S. Senate. That day, his eyes shone with pride for his son. It is the same pride Marco projects for his father whenever he speaks of him.

Politics: Rubio suggests ways to bridge 'opportunity gap'

GOP rising stars look for fresh start
Rubio jokes about presidential run
Poll: Voters want Hillary in 2016

Rubio ended his Kemp Foundation speech with a personal story. He talked about once being in a fancy New York hotel giving yet another speech. At the end of the night, he was approached by the bartenders there who gave him a name plate that reads, "Rubio, bartender," He carries it in his pocket as a reminder of his dad.

The anecdote made me remember a time during Marco Rubio's long-shot U.S. Senate campaign. He was giving a speech at the Biltmore Hotel in Miami. He told the story of hearing his 71-year-old father returning from late nights of bar tending. The bartenders at the Biltmore pooled their tips together and asked me to give it to him for his campaign.

Stories like these are precisely what the Republican Party needs today. We need to remember that America is still the land of opportunity, where a poor man's son or daughter can achieve great success. We need to embrace diversity and remember that people like Marco Rubio's parents immigrated to this country to work, contribute and give their children a better future.

We need to help those that have fallen on hard times, get back up without making them feel ashamed. We need to be compassionate and not righteous and judgmental. We need to lift up, not talk down to any group of people. We need to treat the bartender with the same respect and value we give the CEO. We need to remember the efforts of Jack Kemp to make the Republican Party a bigger tent where the 100% could feel represented.

Politics: Ryan encourages GOP to focus on the future

I think both Jack Kemp and Mario Rubio would have liked the speeches that Ryan and Rubio gave. I know I did. I left there a more optimistic Republican than I went in.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Ana Navarro.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 1:33 AM EST, Thu December 25, 2014
Danny Cevallos says the legislature didn't have to get involved in regulating how people greet each other
updated 6:12 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Marc Harrold suggests a way to move forward after the deaths of NYPD officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos.
updated 8:36 AM EST, Wed December 24, 2014
Simon Moya-Smith says Mah-hi-vist Goodblanket, who was killed by law enforcement officers, deserves justice.
updated 2:14 PM EST, Wed December 24, 2014
Val Lauder says that for 1,700 years, people have been debating when, and how, to celebrate Christmas
updated 3:27 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Raphael Sperry says architects should change their ethics code to ban involvement in designing torture chambers
updated 10:35 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Paul Callan says Sony is right to call for blocking the tweeting of private emails stolen by hackers
updated 7:57 AM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
As Christmas arrives, eyes turn naturally toward Bethlehem. But have we got our history of Christmas right? Jay Parini explores.
updated 11:29 PM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
The late Joe Cocker somehow found himself among the rock 'n' roll aristocracy who showed up in Woodstock to help administer a collective blessing upon a generation.
updated 4:15 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
History may not judge Obama kindly on Syria or even Iraq. But for a lame duck president, he seems to have quacking left to do, says Aaron Miller.
updated 1:11 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Terrorism and WMD -- it's easy to understand why these consistently make the headlines. But small arms can be devastating too, says Rachel Stohl.
updated 1:08 PM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
Ever since "Bridge-gate" threatened to derail Chris Christie's chances for 2016, Jeb Bush has been hinting he might run. Julian Zelizer looks at why he could win.
updated 1:53 PM EST, Sat December 20, 2014
New York's decision to ban hydraulic fracturing was more about politics than good environmental policy, argues Jeremy Carl.
updated 3:19 PM EST, Sat December 20, 2014
On perhaps this year's most compelling drama, the credits have yet to roll. But we still need to learn some cyber lessons to protect America, suggest John McCain.
updated 5:39 PM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
Conservatives know easing the trade embargo with Cuba is good for America. They should just admit it, says Fareed Zakaria.
updated 8:12 PM EST, Fri December 19, 2014
We're a world away from Pakistan in geography, but not in sentiment, writes Donna Brazile.
updated 12:09 PM EST, Fri December 19, 2014
How about a world where we have murderers but no murders? The police still chase down criminals who commit murder, we have trials and justice is handed out...but no one dies.
updated 6:45 PM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
The U.S. must respond to North Korea's alleged hacking of Sony, says Christian Whiton. Failing to do so will only embolden it.
updated 4:34 PM EST, Fri December 19, 2014
President Obama has been flexing his executive muscles lately despite Democrat's losses, writes Gloria Borger
updated 2:51 PM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
Jeff Yang says the film industry's surrender will have lasting implications.
updated 4:13 PM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
Newt Gingrich: No one should underestimate the historic importance of the collapse of American defenses in the Sony Pictures attack.
updated 7:55 AM EST, Wed December 10, 2014
Dean Obeidallah asks how the genuine Stephen Colbert will do, compared to "Stephen Colbert"
updated 12:34 PM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
Some GOP politicians want drug tests for welfare recipients; Eric Liu says bailed-out execs should get equal treatment
updated 8:42 AM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
Louis Perez: Obama introduced a long-absent element of lucidity into U.S. policy on Cuba.
updated 12:40 PM EST, Tue December 16, 2014
The slaughter of more than 130 children by the Pakistani Taliban may prove as pivotal to Pakistan's security policy as the 9/11 attacks were for the U.S., says Peter Bergen.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT