ANALYSIS: Rubio and Paul preview possible 2016 showdown in State of the Union responses

“I recently joked that today, in the U.S. Senate, on foreign policy, if you go far enough to the right, you wind up on the left,” Rubio said.

Paul, by contrast, argued, “Reagan’s foreign policy was much closer to what I am advocating than what we have today.”

Paul has continued to burnish his conservative credentials, proposing a plan to balance the federal budget in just five years and traveling with Christian-right leaders to Israel. Rubio has pushed himself to the forefront of congressional immigration negotiations by joining the bipartisan Senate “gang of eight.”

Both senators are widely believed to harbor White House ambitions, making their Tuesday night speeches something of an audition. But it isn’t easy to compete with an incumbent president on national television.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal’s reputation as a GOP rising star took a hit when his 2009 State of the Union response received harsh reviews. When Minnesota Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann preceded Paul in giving the tea party response, she was also widely panned.

Before Paul or Rubio can contemplate giving their own State of the Union addresses, they may first have to face each other.

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