Marco Rubio's Iowa Bet Could Pay Off in 2016

By: Jeff Henderson | Posted: June 3, 2014 3:55 AM
Marco Rubio

Marco Rubio

Marco Rubio’s not on the ballot in Iowa, but he is well-positioned to become one of the big winners emerging out of Tuesday’s Republican primary as the GOP looks for a candidate to replace Tom Harkin in the Senate. 

Rubio is backing Joni Ernst, a state senator and Iowa National Guard officer, who has scratched and clawed her way to become the front-runner in the primary. So far, to help Ernst, Rubio has run TV commercials and he campaigned with her in a Des Moines suburb on Monday in a last-minute campaign appearance.
Iowa isn’t exactly natural turf for Rubio if he runs for president in 2016. Despite being the first contest, in recent Republican caucuses, Iowa has been a thorn in the side to the GOP establishment, giving wins to Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum while the likes of Alan Keyes, Pat Buchanan and Pat Robertson all did well there.

It’s tough to imagine Rubio rallying the same kind of Iowa conservatives that propelled Huckabee and Santorum to victory. But Rubio’s support could be crucial for Ernst. Polls released this week have shown Ernst close to breaking 35 percent in the crowded primary which would help her avoid a convention fight. If Ernst avoids a runoff by the skin of her teeth, Rubio backers can make the claim that his commercials, Monday appearance and the coverage in local news broadcasts helped get her across the line.

If he runs for president, Rubio doesn’t have the luxury of avoiding Iowa like Bill Clinton and John McCain did. He’ll have to have an impressive showing before moving onto more favorable territory like New Hampshire, South Carolina and Florida. It’s worked several times over the years: Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Mike Dukakis, Clinton, McCain and Mitt Romney all went on to win their party’s nominations despite losing in Iowa.

Rubio has taken his lumps from conservatives in recent months, especially in regard to his support of immigration reform. Some Iowa Republicans who cast their votes for Huckabee, Santorum or Buchanan are very unlikely to vote for Rubio. But Rubio can diminish their hostilities and regain some of the luster he had before he led the fight for immigration reform.

Some of the other presidential hopefuls are backing other candidates in Tuesday’s primary but most of them are on the sidelines, not wanting to wade into a competitive primary despite it being in a key state. Rubio is one of the few who is behind Ernst and, if she wins, his stock in Iowa should start to tick up again. Right now, Rubio’s apparently made a wise bet.

Tallahassee political writer Jeff Henderson wrote this analysis exclusively for Sunshine State News.

Comments (3)

Cynthia Crowe
3:18PM JUN 8TH 2014
Rubio needs to visit Venice Florida some time in the future. This is where he started his senatorial race. We still love him.
Fran k
8:24AM JUN 4TH 2014
When Rubio announced his support for amnesty for the illegals, he lost my support permanently. He can't be trusted...
nibbling away
8:14AM JUN 4TH 2014
Mississippi run off-

Chris McDaniel has energy headed into a three week runoff. The only caveat is: "if overnight some mystery votes from the machine show up for Cochran." i.e. Those little Clint Curtis vote fixer chips! And that little shred the absentee ballots that vote for the wrong person and fix those "early votes" who vote for the wrong person!

And here is the dirty little secret. The establishment largely has to win every one of their races. The grassroots do not. We just need to add to the ranks of conservatives in the Senate. And we are doing that. The establishment and grassroots are playing two different games. The establishment can pour money in and win in most cases as they have done. But the grassroots can just keep nibbling away.

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