Marco Rubio's Big Poverty Gamble

The success of anything that Rubio proposes, or Ryan unveils in the coming weeks and months, will depend on Boehner's ability to hold his conference together with what political capital he gained by denouncing outside Tea Party interests that opposed the Ryan-brokered budget compromise at the end of the year.

"The speaker has done a masterful job of bringing together these 30 or so members who seem more interested in voting no and saying look, we need to stick together," said Christie. "The so-called circular firing squad has given light to a new dawn and a new day in 2013."

But on policy solutions, there may be other concerns.

Most Republicans acknowledge that talking about poverty has always been fraught with peril in part because conservatives generally oppose solutions that originate from the government, especially the federal government.

Even Republican Gov. John Kasich has come under intense fire from his own party for moving to expand the social safety net in Ohio as a moral priority.

Brooks has been somewhat of a lonely soul encouraging his fellow conservatives to end their "war on the social safety net." That comment, made at a conference in October, has made Brooks something of a celebrity among liberals.

But Rubio has already signaled, in a video message previewing his speech today, that he's unlikely to offer a truce on the social safety net today.

"After 50 years isn't it time to declare big government's war on poverty a failure," he asked.

Former Alabama Rep. Artur Davis, a Democrat turned Republican, agrees that for Republicans to start a conversation about poverty by slamming programs such as food stamps and welfare without acknowledging what they have accomplished in providing immediate poverty relief is the fastest way for them to lose credibility on the issue.

"It's important for him to make the point that some of the programs in the social safety net have worked," Davis said. "It doesn't resonate with African-Americans and Latinos to say the war on poverty has been an abject failure and you've got to scrap it."

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