WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - Sen. Marco Rubio is seen as a political rising star and a possible presidential candidate in 2016.
Is his speech Tuesday night the sign of a rising star?
"Only two folks in history who have given the rebuttal to a State of the Union have gone on to be elected president," said Lynn U. political science professor Robert Watson.
They are Gerald Ford and Bill Clinton - who gave the speech in 1985.
But Marco Rubio is seen as a GOP fresh face who has potential to bridge the party's divide with Hispanics, who voted heavily for President Obama in November.
Rubio speaks often of his parents.
"They're immigrants, who came here because they were stuck in poverty in countries where the government dominated the economy. The tax increases and the deficit spending you propose will hurt middle class families," said Rubio.
Rubio took the stage Tuesday night only a few months after delivering a primetime speech at the Republican convention in Tampa.
He's taking a lead role on immigration reform in Congress.
Watson says Rubio needs to continue to harden himself as a driver of policy, and move beyond the son-of-an immigrant narrative.
"Economic growth is the best way to help the middle class. Unfortunately, our economy actually shrank during the last three months of 2012. But if we can get the economy to grow at just 4 percent a year, it would create millions of middle class jobs," said Rubio.
Over the next few years as he ponders a run for president, Watson says Rubio will also have to mix Tea Party roots with a moderate tone.
"He's got a heck of a balancing act. Over the next few weeks, I think we're going to see whether Rubio has the political skills that maybe a Reagan or a Bill Clinton had. We're going to see whether Marco Rubio is really made of the stuff of presidential timbre," said Watson.
Copyright 2013 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.