Keep up, if you can—things are about to get strange.
In preparation for President Barack Obama's State of the Union address on Tuesday night, the Democratic National Committee on Monday gathered lawmakers for a conference call with reporters to offer a "prebuttal" to Florida Sen. Marco Rubio's not-yet-delivered Republican rebuttal to Obama's not-yet-delivered national address.
"Given the late hour [scheduled for Rubio's on-camera response] we thought this would be a good opportunity for us to make some comments about what we anticipate based on the record that we have that Sen. Rubio is likely to address and how we would respond to that," DNC spokesman Brad Woodhouse said on the call.
In other words, if you can't have the last word about the State of the Union, you'd better be sure to have the first.
The framework of Rubio's forthcoming response, which will air live immediately after the president's speech at 9 p.m. ET, will mostly be determined before the president actually gives his annual address.
Rubio, a rising star within the party who is currently leading a Republican effort to overhaul the nation's immigration system, was selected last week to deliver the official Republican response to the president's speech.
The prebuttal call also included DNC Chairwoman Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, Maryland Rep. Chris Van Hollen, and Annette Capella, introduced as a "senior citizen" and "Medicare recipient from Florida" (a bio that's accurate, if not complete—she's also the former chairwoman of the St. Johns County Democratic Party in northern Florida).
Just as Obama's speech and Rubio's response will likely be full of focus-grouped buzzwords, the Democratic prebuttal contained typical partisan rhetoric repackaged for the occasion. For instance, Wasserman Schultz said Rubio wanted to "gut Medicaid" and would "devastate seniors" by supporting "an extreme view of government that would dismantle America's social safety net in order to pay for tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires."
She went on to say that Rubio's plans would put "nursing homes at risk" and that services for "disabled children" could be eliminated.
A few moments later, reading from her prepared remarks, Capella called on lawmakers to "stop the partisan bickering and start working toward common goals." (Bless her heart.)
This is not to pick on Democrats exclusively—Republicans have been "prebutting" Obama's forthcoming speech for days now—but it does reveal the state of Washington's often frenetic and strange system of message control, in which opposing sides argue over each other before the other party has made a single point.