Republican Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders undercut President Joe Biden's State of the Union address as beholden to "woke fantasies" and untethered from mainstream America.
"Most Americans simply want to live their lives in freedom and peace, but we are under attack in a left-wing culture war we didn't start and never wanted to fight," Sanders, who is tasked with giving the GOP response, said in prepared excerpts released before the president's speech.
Tuesday's event marked the rapid elevation for Sanders, who was sworn into elected office for the first time just weeks ago. However, she is far from a political neophyte, as her father held the same position she now occupies from 1996-2007 and Sanders previously served as press secretary in the Trump White House. She also represents a new class of Republicans attempting to marry Trumpism with more traditional parts of GOP orthodoxy.
In one of her first acts as governor, Sanders garnered national attention for a directive banning the term Latinx across the Arkansas government. In her Tuesday response, Sanders similarly waded into culture war subjects that have animated conservatives in the Biden years, inveighing against "false idols" of the left and other conservative punching bags.
"That's not normal. It's crazy, and it's wrong," she said.
Huckabee also hit the president for his stewardship of the economy and the Biden administration's handling of immigration policy.
Those broadsides are not far apart from the depiction of Biden and his fellow Democrats presented by her previous boss, former President Donald Trump, underscoring the lasting impression he has made on the Republican party - albeit with the former president's sharpest edges shaved off.
Trump, the only major declared Republican candidate for the White House, released his own short response to Biden's speech in which he painted a bleak picture of the country and accused the president of allowing illegal immigrants to "storm" the country and letting drug cartels smuggle drugs across the border.
Trump also highlighted inflation, the rise in murder rates, and said the Biden administration is "trying to indoctrinate and mutilate our children" - a reference to sexual orientation and gender identity issues that have animated the party.
By contrast, Sanders echoed those same themes, without the same level of rancor and in a way that Republicans have at times sought for in hopes of modulating the former president's agenda into an enduring coalition. At the outset of her remarks, she referenced her thyroid cancer diagnosis and treatment, as well as her mother's experience with a different form of cancer, before swiftly pivoting into a condemnation of Biden.
"The dividing line in America is no longer between right or left; the choice is between normal or crazy," she said.
Sanders also teased the forthcoming release of an education plan for Arkansas that she said would - if enacted - raise teachers' salaries, expand parental choice and improve childhood literacy.
Sanders' speech stands in contrast to the tone left by her predecessor, Republican Asa Hutchinson, a regular presence on Washington Sunday shows who in the past has condemned some of Trump's rhetoric, his most controversial policies while and members of the former governor's fellow lawmakers in Arkansas.
Hutchinson has at times flirted with a presidential run as a conservative alternative to Trump, while Sanders has tamped down speculation that she is angling for a higher position.
"I look forward to serving as governor of Arkansas for a full eight years if the people of Arkansas will give me that privilege and that opportunity," she said this week on "Fox News Sunday."
Meridith McGraw contributed to this report.