Presidential candidate Marco Rubio should be pleased with his recent visit to Des Moines. Young professionals packed the house at the Exile Brewing Company to hear him speak July 7. Later that day, nearly 200 people turned out to State Representative Chris Hagenow’s 2015 Summer Cookout in Windsor Heights, where Rubio made a guest appearance. Yesterday morning, a record number of people attended the Westside Conservative Club’s breakfast at the Machine Shed to see the senator. The venue filled up quickly and turned away 40 people by 6:50 a.m, said Iowa State Senator Jack Whitver, who is the chair for Rubio’s campaign in Iowa.
All three of Rubio’s speeches underlined his personal upbringing and pride for the United States. “I want you to put aside for a moment all this negativity about America’s future,” Rubio said. “I’m not saying we don’t have things we have to confront. But what country in the world would you trade places with?”
Many of the attendees had not seen Rubio before, so it makes sense that he would begin with broad, positive messages; best not to scare away possible new supporters with harsh words about their country.
Rubio then dove into the problems America does face, especially new difficulties in achieving the American Dream. “The path to that better life has gotten a little narrower,” Rubio said. “And the reason is this: because the world is changing, and we have not changed with it.”
The changes Rubio believes will allow America to succeed on the global level? Lowering the corporate tax rate to allow businesses both large and small to flourish in America. “We will have a tax code that says to businesses, ‘the more money you invest back in your business, the more people you hire, the more you pay them, the less you will owe the government in taxes,’” Rubio said.
Rubio called for a cap on federal regulations, which he said puts the person “trying to start a business out of the spare bedroom of their home” at a disadvantage.
Rubio also wants to reform Social Security and Medicare, which he said are the programs driving the national debt. “I may have to retire a year later than my parents did,” Rubio said. “My social security benefits may not grow as fast as current beneficiaries. If we don’t do those things, Social Security and Medicare will not exist for me, for my children, for your children, for your grandchildren, and for many of you that are younger than I am.”
Rubio for the most part kept it simple, appealing to conservative values and lampooning the “big government” he’s seen during Obama’s two terms. It’s a smart, low-risk approach for someone who is still introducing himself to Iowa Republicans.
Rubio also often circled back to his optimistic message after criticizing the American economy. “The good news is, if we do these three things: have a tax code that makes us globally competitive, restrict the number of regulations that strangle our economy, and bring our national debt under control, the United States of America in the 21st century will be the single greatest place in the history of mankind,” Rubio said.
Whitver believes that Rubio’s optimism towards the future is what pulls in the crowds. “In order to win the general election, you need someone who can inspire the party,” Whitver said. “I think he can do that.”
Many, especially the young professionals who gathered to hear Rubio speak at the Exile Brewing Company, seem energized by Rubio’s youth. “We too often get stereotyped as ‘old white guys,’” said Ryan Frederick, who as the Secretary of the State Republican Party declined to say who he plans to caucus for. “The Senator is only 15 years older than I am. I think we have a lot to offer people this year.”
Carson Forst, 25, was also excited to see a new Republican face. “I like his message, and the fact that it’s not another Bush or it’s not another Clinton, it’s going to be something new and fresh,” Forst said.
Whitver was pleased to see the turnout at the Exile Brewing Company. “I think it shows the appeal Senator Rubio has to young professionals,” Whitver said. “I think he’s the one that’s going to inspire this generation to get more involved and become Republicans.”
Young Republicans are clearly not the only ones attracted to Rubio, as the turnouts at State Representative Chris Hagenow’s summer cookout and the Machine Shed prove. “Obviously he is a very, very gifted messenger,” Hagenow said. “I think it’s a positive message voters want to hear. And I think he has the appearance of someone who has the ability to take that message and be successful with it when the general election comes.”
Jackie Heim drove all the way from Indiana to show her support for the senator. “There’s just something about him,” Heim said. “When I read his book, I turned to my husband and said ‘I can’t believe such a young man has so many good ideas.’”
Unfortunately for Rubio, he is running in a packed field, and for every Jackie Heim, there is another conservative supporting a more experienced Republican candidate. Mary Kramer, a retired United States Ambassador, approves of Rubio but says she will support Jeb Bush in 2016. “[Rubio] presents himself well,” Kramer said, but looks to Bush’s accomplishments as the governor of Florida. “For me, the experience, the proven leadership, the style that is able to draw from lots of different expertise, that’s what’s the winning thing for me now.”
Competition aside, Rubio had a strong start to his Iowa visit this week, and it is clear that he has earned the respect of many. His widespread popularity gives him a good shot at getting his name on the Republican ticket.
Sioux City Senator Rick Bertrand has also helped Rubio with his Iowa campaign, and State Representative Bobby Kaufmann endorsed him last night. Between Bertrand and Whitver, Rubio’s Iowa base seems well organized and passionate, key to winning the Iowa vote. Rubio was one of the only candidates represented in several 4th of July parades in Polk County last week, and his staff was quick at work after his speeches signing people up to caucus.
“I talked to leaders from all different factions, and they all think very highly of Marco Rubio,” Whitver said. “I believe he can unite the party, much the same way Joni Ernst did in her election.”
by Angela Ufheil