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 4:06 PM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Timothy Stanley says Lewinsky is shamelessly playing the victim in her affair with Bill Clinton, humiliating Hillary Clinton again and aiding her critics
updated 9:02 PM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
Imagine being rescued from modern slavery, only to be charged with a crime, writes John Sutter
updated 12:00 PM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Tidal flooding used to be a relatively rare occurrence along the East Coast. Not anymore, write Melanie Fitzpatrick and Erika Spanger-Siegfried.
updated 7:35 AM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Carol Costello says activists, writers, politicians have begun discussing their abortions. But will that new approach make a difference on an old battleground?
updated 9:12 AM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Sigrid Fry-Revere says the National Organ Transplant Act has caused more Americans to die waiting for an organ than died in both World Wars, Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq
updated 2:51 PM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Crystal Wright says racist remarks like those made by black Republican actress Stacey Dash do nothing to get blacks to join the GOP
updated 6:07 PM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Mel Robbins says by telling her story, Monica Lewinsky offers a lesson in confronting humiliating mistakes while keeping her head held high
updated 9:29 AM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
Cornell Belcher says the story of the "tea party wave" in 2010 was bogus; it was an election determined by ebbing Democratic turnout
updated 4:12 PM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
Les Abend says pilots want protocols, preparation and checklists for all contingencies; at the moment, controlling a deadly disease is out of their comfort zone
updated 11:36 PM EDT, Sun October 19, 2014
David Weinberger says an online controversy that snowballed from a misogynist attack by gamers into a culture war is a preview of the way news is handled in a world of hashtag-fueled scandal
updated 8:23 AM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
Julian Zelizer says Paul Krugman makes some good points in his defense of President Obama but is premature in calling him one of the most successful presidents.
updated 10:21 PM EDT, Sun October 19, 2014
Conservatives can't bash and slash government and then suddenly act surprised if government isn't there when we need it, writes Sally Kohn
updated 8:28 AM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
ISIS is looking to take over a good chunk of the Middle East -- if not the entire Muslim world, write Peter Bergen and Emily Schneider.
updated 9:00 AM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
The world's response to Ebola is its own sort of tragedy, writes John Sutter
updated 4:33 PM EDT, Fri October 17, 2014
Hidden away in Russian orphanages are thousands of children with disabilities who aren't orphans, whose harmful treatment has long been hidden from public view, writes Andrea Mazzarino
updated 1:22 PM EDT, Sat October 18, 2014
When you hear "trick or treat" this year, think "nudge," writes John Bare
updated 12:42 AM EDT, Sat October 18, 2014
The more than 200 kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls have become pawns in a larger drama, writes Richard Joseph.
updated 9:45 AM EDT, Fri October 17, 2014
Peggy Drexler said Amal Alamuddin was accused of buying into the patriarchy when she changed her name to Clooney. But that was her choice.
updated 4:43 PM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
Ford Vox says the CDC's Thomas Frieden is a good man with a stellar resume who has shown he lacks the unique talents and vision needed to confront the Ebola crisis
updated 4:58 AM EDT, Sat October 18, 2014
How can such a numerically small force as ISIS take control of vast swathes of Syria and Iraq?
updated 9:42 AM EDT, Fri October 17, 2014
How big a threat do foreign fighters in Syria and Iraq pose to the West? It's a question that has been much on the mind of policymakers and commentators.
updated 8:21 AM EDT, Fri October 17, 2014
More than a quarter-million American women served honorably in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Now they are home, we have an obligation to help them transition back to civilian life.
updated 4:27 PM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
Paul Begala says Rick Scott's deeply weird refusal to begin a debate because rival Charlie Crist had a fan under his podium spells disaster for the Florida governor--delighting Crist
updated 12:07 AM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
The longer we wait to engage on Ebola, the more limited our options will become, says Marco Rubio.
updated 7:53 AM EDT, Wed October 15, 2014
Democratic candidates who run from President Obama in red states where he is unpopular are making a big mistake, says Donna Brazile
updated 12:29 AM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
At some 7 billion people, the world can sometimes seem like a crowded place. But if the latest estimates are to be believed, then in less than a century it is going to feel even more so -- about 50% more crowded, says Evan Fraser
updated 12:53 PM EDT, Mon October 20, 2014
Paul Callan says the Ebola situation is pointing up the need for better leadership
updated 6:45 PM EDT, Wed October 15, 2014
Nurses are the unsung heroes of the Ebola outbreak. Yet, there are troubling signs we're failing them, says John Sutter
updated 1:00 PM EDT, Wed October 15, 2014
Dean Obeidallah says it's a mistake to give up a business name you've invested energy in, just because of a new terrorist group
updated 7:01 PM EDT, Wed October 15, 2014
Fear of Ebola is contagious, writes Mel Robbins; but it's time to put the disease in perspective
updated 1:44 PM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
Oliver Kershaw says that if Big Tobacco is given monopoly of e-cigarette products, public health will suffer.
updated 9:35 AM EDT, Sat October 18, 2014
Stop thinking your job will make you happy.
updated 10:08 PM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
Ruben Navarrette says it's time to deal with another scandal involving the Secret Service — one that leads directly into the White House.
updated 7:25 AM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
Americans who choose to fight for militant groups or support them are young and likely to be active in jihadist social media, says Peter Bergen
updated 9:03 AM EDT, Mon October 13, 2014
Stephanie Coontz says 11 years ago only one state allowed same sex marriage. Soon, some 60% of Americans will live where gays can marry. How did attitudes change so quickly?
updated 4:04 PM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
Legalizing assisted suicide seems acceptable when focusing on individuals. But such laws would put many at risk of immense harm, writes Marilyn Golden.
updated 9:07 AM EDT, Mon October 13, 2014
Julian Zelizer says the issues are huge, but both parties are wrestling with problems that alienate voters
updated 6:50 PM EDT, Mon October 13, 2014
Mel Robbins says the town's school chief was right to cancel the season, but that's just the beginning of what needs to be done
updated 11:43 AM EDT, Sat October 11, 2014
He didn't discover that the world was round, David Perry writes. So what did he do?
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT