President Joe Biden will deliver the State of the Union address on Tuesday, and the party out of power normally chooses a “rising star” to give its official response.
This year, the GOP has tapped a big name: Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell announced the role on Thursday.
“While President Biden keeps repeating old mistakes and failing Americans, a rising generation of Republican Governors are fighting for families, advancing new solutions, and winning,” McConnell said in a statement.
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The governor relished the opportunity to contrast the GOP’s vision for the future against that of Biden and the Democrats. “We are ready to begin a new chapter in the story of America — to be written by a new generation of leaders,” she said.
Sanders, 40, ranks as the nation’s youngest governor. She is half the age of Biden, who is 80.
In last year’s midterm elections, Arkansas became the first state in the nation to elect both a female governor and a female lieutenant governor. Arkansas elects the governor on a different ticket than the lieutenant governor.
While in office, Sanders has focused primarily on education reform. She’s said her priority is getting Arkansas’ majority-Republican Legislature to approve legislation that she’s indicated will include some form of using public money to pay for private schooling or home schooling.
She’s also addressed the social issues of the day. Early in her term, she signed an executive order to restrict public schools implementing critical race theory, with another order to ban TikTok from state-issued devices.
Before becoming governor, Sanders served as White House press secretary for President Donald Trump from 2017 to 2019. She left the White House in 2019 to return to Arkansas, where she had Trump’s endorsement in her bid for governor. She is the daughter of former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.
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Sanders has been mentioned by pundits as a possible running mate for Trump, in his ongoing campaign for president. She may use this speaking role as a launch pad, just as past speakers have done.
For example, former Gov. Nikki Haley, R-S.C., gave the response to Barack Obama’s State of the Union in 2016. Haley later became Trump’s ambassador to the U.N., and she’s expected to announce her own presidential campaign later this month.
In any case, Sanders has earned the GOP’s attention as a rising star.
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The Horn editorial team and the Associated Press contributed to this article.