TIME White House

31.7 Million Tuned in to Obama’s State of the Union Address

Down from 33.3 million in 2014

The numbers are in, and it was another lackluster year in terms of live telecast viewership of President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address.

Nielsen reports 31.7 million people tuned in to the various networks that hosted the annual telecast, down from 33.3 million in 2014.

The low viewership comes as no surprise, really. There’s been a steady decline in telecast viewership over the past several years, but the 2015 audience was the smallest audience that Obama has drawn since taking office in 2009. During his first address, about 52.4 million people tuned in.

Social media participation in the address, however, was high. Some 2.6 million tweets were sent out during the hour-long address, Nielsen noted, with 44,000 tweets being sent out after the now-infamous moment when the President noted he had no more campaigns to run.

TIME Crime

Ohio Man Indicted for Plot to Attack U.S. Capitol

Christopher Lee Cornell has been charged with attempted to kill officers of the government and other violent crimes

A federal grand jury in Ohio has indicted a man accused of plotting to attack the U.S. Capitol by detonating pipe bombs and shooting government officials.

Christopher Lee Cornell, 20, was charged with attempting to kill government employees, solicitation to commit a crime and possession of a firearm, the Justice Department said in a statement. The first two charges are punishable by 20 years in prison while the third charge can bring 5 years in prison.

He was arrested Jan. 14 outside a gun shop after having come onto federal agents radar over the summer for suspicious postings on social media, in which he sought help to carry out an attack inspired by the militant group Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria. In subsequent court documents, the Associated Press reports, the FBI said Cornell had planned to “wage jihad”; he had been interacting with an FBI informant for months while agents carried out their investigation.

Cornell’s father has said his son didn’t have the means to carry out a violent attack and believes he was coerced by the informant. His arraignment is scheduled for Thursday.

TIME LGBT

Why It’s a Big Deal That Obama Said ‘Transgender’

It's all about legitimacy

Every word in every State of the Union speech is vetted. And President Barack Obama’s decision to say a certain word among the 6,718 he uttered on Tuesday is reverberating through the LGBT community. That’s because Obama just became the first President to say the word transgender during such a high-profile occasion. And most advocates for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights are thrilled.

“The President’s acknowledgment helps shatter the cloak of invisibility that has plagued trans people and forced many to suffer in silence,” author and MSNBC host Janet Mock tells TIME. “By speaking our community’s name, the President pushes us all to recognize the existence and validity of trans people as Americans worthy of protection and our nation’s resources.”

“As a transgender man and an advocate for transgender people, it was thrilling to hear, for the first time in our nation’s history, the President of the United States acknowledge transgender people as an integral and valued part of our national community,” says Shannon Minter, legal director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights.

MORE One State of the Union, Two Barack Obamas

The issues of validity and legitimacy are huge ones for transgender people. Decades ago, doctors didn’t think their feelings about their gender identity were legitimate—that they were inclinations requiring correction. Today, the medical community has evolved, but many people still mistakenly assume transgender people are only really transgender if their bodies look a certain way.

Actress Laverne Cox talked about this issue during an interview with TIME for our cover story on trans issues: “We have to listen to people about who they are and not assume that there’s something wrong with trans people. Because we know who we are. And I think the biggest thing is folks want to believe that there’s something, that genitals and biology are destiny. … When you think about it, it’s kind of ridiculous. People need to be willing to let go of what they think they know about what it means to be a man and what it means to be a woman.”

MORE Barack Obama is ready to fight

Elizabeth Reis, a professor of women’s and gender studies at the University of Oregon, says that for decades transgender people have had to deal with the perception that they’re deceiving people. “The people who say that they’re trans have always been undermined and thought of as not telling the truth, being intentionally deceitful of others,” she says. She calls it “the authenticity issue that trans people face, not being believed for who they say they are.”

To get medical treatment or to play on sports teams or to change the gender on their driver’s licenses, transgender people have long had to provide documents and testimony that they are who they say they are. In the past, they sometimes had to prove they intended to have or had undergone surgery. And today, there are people who don’t understand what it means to be transgender or don’t “believe in being transgender,” as the sibling of a transgender boy told TIME in 2014. Constantly proving one’s status is not something that many Americans are forced to do on a daily basis. To have Obama offer up recognition using the word that the community itself uses—rather than circling the issue with a some vague phrase like “regardless of how someone identifies”—is him implying that he does believe and doesn’t need any more proof.

Here is the full context of Obama’s comment:

As Americans, we respect human dignity, even when we’re threatened, which is why I’ve prohibited torture, and worked to make sure our use of new technology like drones is properly constrained. It’s why we speak out against the deplorable anti-Semitism that has resurfaced in certain parts of the world. It’s why we continue to reject offensive stereotypes of Muslims — the vast majority of whom share our commitment to peace. That’s why we defend free speech, and advocate for political prisoners, and condemn the persecution of women, or religious minorities, or people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. We do these things not only because they’re right, but because they make us safer.

The Transgender Law Center, the largest legal advocacy organization entirely dedicated to transgender issues, lauded his comment. “President Obama’s public recognition of transgender people in his State of the Union address was historic,” executive director Masen Davis said in a statement. “While it seems like a simple thing—saying the word ‘transgender’ in a speech—President Obama’s statement represents significant progress for transgender people and the movement towards equality for all.”

Davis spoke to TIME last year about his own experience coming out as a transgender man and how much times have changed since the ’90s. “When I first came out as transgender, we all just assumed that if you were transgender, you were going to lose your family, you were going to lose your friends, you were going to lose your job. You needed to be prepared to lose everything,” he said. “We’ve come so far, that it’s become easier for transgender people in certain areas of the country to be out and for them to feel like they can come out at work and they’re not going to lose their jobs. They can come out to their family and they might not be thrown out. That they can come out at school and still be treated well.”

Still, as Davis says, transgender people are still disadvantaged as a demographic. They are more likely to experience harassment because of their gender status, to lose their jobs and live in poverty. More than 40% of transgender people, according to one report, have attempted suicide. Leelah Alcorn is a recent, tragic example of how hard it is to be a young transgender person in America.

That’s why even on this historic occasion, some transgender advocates are not sated. “I’m glad that he mentions us but to be honest it’s not nearly enough,” says Greta Martela, who recently founded Trans Lifeline. “I can’t get excited about the President simply acknowledging our existence when we are facing this kind of crisis and discrimination.”

Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, says that word was missing in “laundry lists” he reeled off during the State of the Union in previous years. Still, Keisling notes that even when Obama didn’t say the T-word or the B-word (his mention of bisexual Americans was also a first this year), he did push forward on LGBT-friendly policies. In 2014, he signed an executive order extending workplace protections to LGBT employees working for federal contractors. And his attorney general, Eric Holder, recently instructed the Department of Justice to argue that discrimination against transgender people qualifies as sex discrimination under Title VII.

“Of course, the advancement of those policies is so much more important than a mention in a speech,” Keisling says. “But make no mistake, the President of the United States condemning persecution against transgender people is pivotal … His mention of us makes us know that he meant us when he talked about Americans. When he spoke about children, he meant transgender children too.”

TIME 2016 Election

How the 2016 Presidential Contenders Responded to Obama’s State of the Union

Texan George P. Bush sworn in to office
Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush visits with friends in the Texas Senate chamber after seeing his son George P. Bush, 38, sworn into office as the Texas Land Commissioner in Austin on Jan. 2, 2015. Bob Daemmrich—Corbis

From Jeb Bush to Rand Paul and more

There wasn’t much room for more responses to President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address after five different Republicans were set to offer formal rebuttals Tuesday night. But potential candidates in the 2016 presidential race still managed to squeeze into the mix.

Republican former Govs. Jeb Bush of Florida and Bobby Jindal of Louisiana were among many White House hopefuls who took to social media to air their responses.

In an Instagram video, Bush called for less divisiveness on tax policy. “This nation needs to create economic opportunity for all Americans,” Bush said. “It’s really sad that President Obama wants to use the tax code once again to divide us.”

Jindal tweeted his response to the State of the Union, which drew the attention of many, but likely not for the reason he’d hoped. “I’ll save you 45 mins. Obama will decry Republicans, beat up on private business and argue for more ‘free stuff,’” Jindal wrote, before ending the tweet with a glaring grammar mistake.

MORE: How 7 ideas in the State of the Union would affect you

Former Virginia Democratic Sen. Webb, who has largely stayed below the fray since launching an 2016 exploratory committee in late November, live-tweeted the State of the Union, sharing his ideas for criminal justice reform and criticizing the President’s actions on foreign policy and national security.

Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker tweeted a response, issued a statement and also made an appearance on MSNBC’s Morning Joe to talk about the President’s address. “Our American revival is not going to be led by a lame duck president who would rather pick fights with Congress,” Walker said in a statement. “”It will be led by reformers who know how to get things done.”

In a lengthy Facebook post, two-time Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who is considering another campaign in 2016, said the speech was proof that Obama is “more interested in politics than in leadership.”

“Rather than bridging the gap between the parties, he makes ‘bridge to nowhere’ proposals,” Romney wrote. “Disappointing. A missed opportunity to lead.”

Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul issued a pre-recorded video response to the State of the Union. “The President is intent on redistributing the pie, but not growing it,” he said.

TIME State of the Union 2015

These Are the Funniest Memes From the State of the Union

Few were safe from becoming a joke on social media

While pundits and political operatives dissected President Barack Obama’s 2015 State of the Union address, the quick-witted citizens of Twitter flourished in the abundance of meme-able moments Tuesday night.

Here are some of the highlights.

  • Biden’s Reaction

    Not sure if the Vice President knew he was making the face of a rapper’s hype-man as the President spoke.

  • Speaker Boehner is Not Impressed

    Like the Vice President’s, House Speaker John Boehner’s facial expressions are always an easy target for critique during the State of the Union

  • Secretary Moniz Gets Meme’d

    Neither Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz nor his amazing hair got enough air time during the State of the Union

  • First Lady Fashion

    First Lady Michelle Obama channelled the look of another “First Lady” last night, Alicia Florrick of CBS’s The Good Wife.

  • The President’s “Drops-Mic” Moment

    The moment that stole the show gets the Vine treatment, complete with dad-dancing

  • Rand Paul Joins In

    Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul joined in on the fun, using a Willy Wonka meme to question the President’s plan for free community college

  • The State of the Union Is…

    Though Obama said Tuesday the state of our union is “strong,” someone suggested a word that could better connect with the youth

  • The Suit Returns

    White House Senior Advisor Dan Pfeiffer did a little pre-speech trolling, suggesting the President would be wearing his infamous tan-suit during the evening’s address

  • Joni Ernst’s Shoes

    During the official Republican response, Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst recalled covering her shoes with bread bags to protect them when she was growing up, which spawned arguably one of the funniest memes of the night

  • A Presidential Wink

    POTUS flashes a wink and a smile

    Read next: The State of the Union Brought Out the Troll in Everyone

    Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME State of the Union 2015

Barack Obama Is Ready to Rejoin the Battle

In the story of a Minnesota couple, an embattled President rediscovers his voice and his purpose

America, meet Rebekah Erler. She was the one sitting between Michelle Obama and Jill Biden because she wrote a letter to the President, which provided the strongest line of Obama’s State of the Union speech: “We are a strong, tight-knit family who has made it through some very, very hard times.” He repeated it four times, the last iteration a grand reference to the American “family.” Indeed, we learned a lot about the Erler family during Obama’s speech. She waited tables. Her husband Ben’s construction business dried up after the 2008 crash, and he traveled long distances to do odd jobs. She went to community college and became an accountant. They had two sons. The rising economy brought a happy end to the story: Ben’s remodeling business was growing again.

MORE: How 7 ideas in the State of the Union would affect you

Obviously, the President thought the Erlers were a good metaphor for the arc of his presidency. But they were more than that: they represent ground zero in American politics, the white working families who used to form the solid base of the Democratic party, then began to slip away to the Republicans in the late 1960s—especially the men. (Ben wasn’t in the first lady’s box with his wife, touching off a tweetnado). And they were a perfect frame for Obama’s speech, which was written to appeal to the Erlers of America.

There were twin sources of the white flight from the Democratic party. One was the sense that Democrats were only interested in taking money from people like the Erlers and giving it to deadbeats, or feeding the government bureaucracy, personified by the post office stereotype: slow-moving, sullen, entitled. The other was a matter of values: the Democrats were the counterculture party, an argument that is evaporating as the culture has moved on, accepting homosexuality, premarital sex and, soon, marijuana. The first argument remains strong, though. It was what propelled the Republican victory in 2014. Obamacare was perceived as classic “liberalism”—it took money from hard-working Americans and gave it to unhealthy deadbeats. Only it didn’t: it gave subsidies to the working poor; the indigent were already covered by Medicaid.

The striking thing about Obama’s latest round of proposals is how targeted they are: the centerpiece tax reforms take money from the wealthy and give it to middle-class taxpayers, people like the Erlers. You have to actually pay taxes to benefit from tax credits (except for the child care deduction, which becomes a stipend for those who don’t). Even his free community college proposal might have been a boon to Rebekah, as she struggled to learn accounting. This is quite the opposite of offering health insurance to a country that was already 85% covered. It is middle-class populism: money is taken from the wealthy and given to a broad swath of the population whose incomes have been stagnating for 30 years.

The Republicans will oppose this, but I suspect they may have a tough argument this time. Big money is about as popular in this country as big government, and the sense that the rich don¹t pay their fair share (Exhibit A: Mitt Romney) is as strong as the sense that government wastes a lot of money. “Lowering tax bills for the middle class is a perfectly fine idea,” says James Pethokoukis of the conservative American Enterprise Institute. “I would probably raise the money in a different way. [Obama] wants to increase the capital gains tax, which should be as low as possible. But we’re only talking about $210 billion over ten years, which is little more than a rounding error, given the size of the budget.” There are other, more ambitious income redistribution plans afoot. Congressman Chris Van Hollen (D-Maryland) has proposed a .01% tax on stock transactions that would not only provide a $1000 middle class tax credit, but also put a damper on the high-speed Wall Street casino trading that helped lead to the last crash. This is a public argument worth having. It will be at the center of the 2016 presidential campaign, if we’re lucky.

MORE: Obama made history by using this word during the State of the Union

“If we’re going to have arguments, let’s have arguments,” the President said, “But let’s make them arguments worthy of this body and this country,” another statement that may have struck home in Erler-world, where the latter day bleat of American politics has come to seem sordid and silly. Obama’s personal transformation over the past six months has been stunning. He almost seemed defeated and uncaring last summer, playing golf instead of honoring an American journalist who had been beheaded. He was rejected by his own party, and then the country, in the fall. He has been on the defensive through most of his second term. But he has resurrected himself through action‹on immigration, on Cuba—and the still-iffy buoyancy of the economy. Like the Erlers, he has been struck and stunned, but he seems ready, finally, to rejoin the battle.

TIME Congress

Boehner Invites Israeli Prime Minister to Address Congress on Iran

House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio walks to the House chamber on Capitol Hill in Washington on Jan. 14, 2015, as lawmakers gather for a vote to fund the Homeland Security Department but will curb President Barack Obama's executive actions on immigration.
House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio walks to the House chamber on Capitol Hill in Washington on Jan. 14, 2015, as lawmakers gather for a vote to fund the Homeland Security Department but will curb President Barack Obama's executive actions on immigration. J. Scott Applewhite—AP

The Republican leader released a letter extending the invitation to Benjamin Netanyahu for Feb. 11

(WASHINGTON) — Rebuffing President Barack Obama on Iran, House Speaker John Boehner said Wednesday he had invited Israel’s prime minister to address a joint meeting of Congress next month about the threats from Tehran and radical Islam.

The Republican leader released a letter extending the invitation to Benjamin Netanyahu for Feb. 11. Boehner also told a private meeting of GOP lawmakers that Congress would move ahead on new penalties against Iran despite Obama’s warning that any legislation would scuttle diplomatic negotiations over the country’s nuclear program.

“You may have seen that on Friday, the president warned us not to move ahead with sanctions on Iran, a state sponsor of terror,” Boehner told colleagues, according to his office. “His exact message to us was: ‘Hold your fire.’ He expects us to stand idly by and do nothing while he cuts a bad deal with Iran.

“Two words: ‘Hell no!’ … We’re going to do no such thing,” the speaker said.

The U.S. and other Western countries believe that Iran is intent on trying to develop nuclear weapons. Tehran claims its nuclear program is peaceful and exists only to produce energy for civilian use.

The high-stakes invitation came just hours after Obama, in his State of the Union address, told Congress that he would veto any sanctions legislation and he urged Congress to delay further penalties against Iran.

“New sanctions passed by this Congress, at this moment in time, will all but guarantee that diplomacy fails — alienating America from its allies, and ensuring that Iran starts up its nuclear program again,” Obama said Tuesday night. “It doesn’t make sense. That is why I will veto any new sanctions bill that threatens to undo this progress. The American people expect us to only go to war as a last resort, and I intend to stay true to that wisdom.”

Obama last week warned that rash action by Congress would increase the risk of a military showdown with Iran, and that “Congress will have to own that as well.” In an unusual step, British Prime Minister David Cameron had called members of Congress to urge them to hold off on sanctions.

The White House had no immediate comment on the Boehner invitation. Typically, requests for foreign leaders to address Congress are made in lengthy consultations with the White House and the State Department.

Boehner said in a statement that Netanyahu “is a great friend of our country, and this invitation carries with it our unwavering commitment to the security and well-being of his people. In this time of challenge, I am asking the prime minister to address Congress on the grave threats radical Islam and Iran pose to our security and way of life. Americans and Israelis have always stood together in shared cause and common ideals, and now we must rise to the moment again.”

Boehner is enlisting Netanyahu as a powerful messenger who could argue for a tougher stance toward Iran and an individual who carries considerable sway with Congress. The prime minister repeatedly has warned that a nuclear deal could undercut Israel’s security.

The invitation comes at a crucial time for Netanyahu, who is in the middle of a re-election campaign.

He has addressed a joint meeting of Congress on two previous occasions, in July 1996 and May 2011.

TIME State of the Union 2015

Here’s the One State of the Union Talking Point Republicans Liked

A debate over the next round of global trade deals is heating up in Congress this year

About a half-hour into President Obama’s State of the Union a strange thing happened: most of the Republicans jumped up and cheered while most Democrats stayed seated and silent. It was the only time it happened Tuesday night, and the topic was trade.

“China wants to write the rules for the world’s fastest-growing region,” said Obama. “That would put our workers and businesses at a disadvantage. Why should we let that happen? We should write those rules. We should level the playing field.”

“I’m the first one to admit that past trade deals haven’t always lived up to the hype, and that’s why we’ve gone after countries that break the rules at our expense,” added Obama, who earned a brief cheer from democratic socialist Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders before continuing. “But 95% of the world’s customers live outside our borders, and we can’t close ourselves off from those opportunities. More than half of manufacturing executives have said they’re actively looking at bringing jobs back from China. Let’s give them one more reason to get it done.”

There are few areas of agreement between Obama and the new Republican Congress, but trade promotion authority, or TPA, which would ease the passage of the 12-country Trans Pacific Partnership, or TPP, potentially the largest free trade agreement ever, is one of them. For years the Administration has been negotiating TPP—affecting about 40% of the world’s GDP and about a third of the world’s trade—but so far Obama has yet to prove to Republicans that he is willing to spend the time, effort and political capital to get it done. But on Tuesday night, the Republicans’ response to his message was ecstatic.

The Republican Senate and House whips, Texas Sen. John Cornyn and Louisiana Rep. Steve Scalise, said that the trade talk was “probably one of the brightest spots” and “the most promising part” of the speech. Other top Republicans who criticize Obama around the clock, like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, said they hoped the President would now push the issue. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, the most senior member, said Obama’s remarks were “welcome but long overdue.”

In 1993, President Bill Clinton led an all-out push to get the massive North America trade deal through Congress. There were face-to-face White House meetings with Congressmen, White House envoys roaming the Hill, and 37 Commerce Department reports targeting industries “from computers to autos,” according to a Christian Science Monitor report, that helped show Congressmen how NAFTA would help their constituents. In October of that year, former CEO of the Chrysler Corporation, Lee Iacocca, stood on the White House South Lawn with hundreds of products (and businessmen) touting what the Administration believed would thrive under NAFTA. Under the white tents, Clinton joked to a pro-trade union man that he would wear the man’s company hat if he gave a speech. A month later, the House passed the bill in a squeaker and the Senate did shortly thereafter.

This time around, Republicans are hoping for another all-out Administration effort on TPP and the “fast-track” bill, which would allow limited congressional debate, no amendments, and an up-or-down vote. The Administration says such a bill is vital to pass TPP, as countries would be less willing to negotiate if they knew Congress could make large changes to the deal. But liberals are livid with Obama’s trade talk; they set up a press conference Wednesday to air out their concerns.

“The typical business plan in this country because of trade and tax policies: You shut down production in Cleveland and you move it to Beijing and sell the products back to the United States,” said Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown after the State of the Union. “That makes no sense. And he’s wrong on that as his predecessors were.”

“If you think that previous trade agreements. . . have done well, you should support the TPP,” said Sanders. “But if you believe, as I do, that they have been disastrous, that they have cost us millions of decent paying jobs, then it make no sense to go forward in a failed policy and it should be defeated. . . . At the end of the day, among many other concerns, American workers are going to be forced to compete against people in Vietnam who make a minimum wage of 56 cents an hour.”

Still pro-trade lawmakers like Democratic Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill believe that Obama can bring “enough” Democrats to pass a “fast-track” trade bill. Democratic Maryland Senator Ben Cardin, who supported the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1993 but opposed the more recent trade agreement bills with South Korea, Panama and Columbia, said Obama “probably” has the votes now to pass a TPA bill through Congress, although it’s easier in the Senate than House, where some conservatives have also raised an uproar about giving more power to the President.

The White House has recently increased its outreach efforts, tasking every Cabinet member to divvy up and target 80 House Democrats, according to the Hill newspaper. In an email Wednesday, Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker told TIME that the trade agenda is a “top priority” for the Administration. “We are taking an ‘all-hands-on-deck’ approach to getting this done,” she said. “We are all out talking not only to members of Congress but to business leaders and workers around the country, telling the story of why trade and exports matter.”

The United State Trade Representative office touts that over nearly five years it has held over 1,600 congressional briefings on TPP. United States Trade Ambassador Michael Froman rebutted liberals’ concerns in a press conference on Wednesday, saying that manufacturing jobs are coming back from overseas and that export-related jobs pay 13 to 18 percent more than other jobs. “It gives us the opportunity to protect workers, protect the environment and level the playing field,” said Froman of TPP.

Still, Obama has a ways to go in getting broad support for both TPA and TPP. New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, a member of the Democratic leadership and Finance Committee, says “many of us wouldn’t support” TPA unless it addressed some China-related concerns. And the top Democrat on the influential Ways and Means Committee, Michigan Rep. Sandy Levin, says the Administration, Congress and outside groups need to immediately “tear apart” other outstanding issues, including those related to the environment and currency manipulation.

“I think it’s a mistake essentially to say let’s fast-track a package when there isn’t a real understanding of the issues and their resolution,” he said. “So that should be the focus right now and that will be the strong basis for getting bipartisan support. If we don’t do that, I don’t think there’s a chance that there will be bipartisan support.”

TIME 2016 Election

Rubio Says His Family Is Behind a Presidential Run

Marco Rubio
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., talks during a news conference at the Capitol in Washington on Dec. 17, 2014. J. Scott Applewhite—AP

The Florida Republican also speaks highly of Jeb Bush

Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio said Wednesday that his family is on board if he decides to run for president, but he has yet to make up his mind about whether to seek the White House.

Speaking at a breakfast for reporters organized by the Christian Science Monitor, Rubio said he has spoken and emailed with Florida Gov. Jeb Bush since his onetime political mentor announced he would “actively explore” a presidential bid last month. Rubio declined to describe those conversations, but said Bush’s decision would not impact his.

“I think Jeb Bush is going to be a very credible candidate,” Rubio said, adding that he could “easily” raise more than $100 million to win the Republican nomination.

“From my perspective, the decision that I’m going to have to make is where is the best place for me to serve this country at this time in my life, at this time in my career,” he said. “And the choice before me is to continue in the Senate, especially now that we hope to hold an enduring majority, or do it from the presidency. And both of those avenues have their own set of opportunities that are alluring.”

Rubio reiterated his position that he would not stand for reelection should he decide to run for president. “If I run it will not be with the intention of looking for a Plan B if it doesn’t work out,” he said. “My intention if I run for president is to run for president.”

Rubio’s comments come as he is set to meet with donors in Florida this weekend before flying out to California to attend a gathering organized by the billionaire industrialist Koch brothers.

MORE: How 7 ideas in the State of the Union would affect you

Rubio declined to directly criticize Iowa Republican Rep. Steve King’s comments Tuesday evening, in which King called a guest of First Lady Michelle Obama to the State of the Union a “deportable” because she was brought to the U.S. illegally as a child.

“I believe that that describes to some extent one of the issues that we confront when we debate these issues,” Rubio said, adding, “We have to always remind ourselves that we’re talking about human beings with hopes and dreams and families.”

Responding to arguments from many Republicans that the next president should be a governor to draw a contrast with President Barack Obama, Rubio quipped: “If I was a governor I’d make the same argument too.” But he argued that a grasp of national security issues is more important than executive experience.

MORE: Obama made history by using this word during the State of the Union

“I believe that the central obligation of the federal government… is providing for the national security,” he said. “The next President of the United States needs to be someone who has a clear vision of American’s role in the world.

“For governors that’s going to be a challenge at least initially,” Rubio added, “since they don’t deal with foreign policy on a daily basis.”

TIME Parenting

Watch Elmo Interview Chelsea Clinton

The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon - Season 1
Chelsea Clinton arrives on March 20, 2014. NBCU Photo Bank/Getty Images

"I'm so happy being a mom," Clinton says

Chelsea Clinton opens up about her baby Charlotte in a new interview with People that features Elmo and plenty of the former first daughter’s childrearing strategies.

“I have a beautiful baby daughter named Charlotte,” a beaming Clinton tells Elmo. Later, she says, “I try really hard to be a good mommy. I think it’s the most important job in the world.”

Watch the video at People

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