WEST DES MOINES, Iowa - Precinct 313 in West Des Moines, Iowa was a good indication of the larger story at the Iowa Caucuses Monday night and, to some degree, the national election.
In between surprise appearances from Ben Carson and Donald Trump Jr., local Iowans spoke on behalf of their preferred candidate at Valley Southwoods school as a means of swaying others in the room. One college student praised Ben Carson for his "true character," another gentleman said Ted Cruz was a conservative who will "stand up for the Constitution," and a former Marine asked the room to “take a stand with Rand.”
One voter made a different sort of pitch. This Marco Rubio supporter, while ensuring to talk about the Florida senator’s conservative credentials, spent a majority of his speech remarking on his electability.
“We’re fighting for the middle 20 percent,” he said. “We need to nominate a candidate who will get support from Reagan Democrats.”
Trump, he indicated, is unlikely to score that demographic with the kind of rhetoric he’s been spouting. As for Ted Cruz, he said his weakness is his inability to unite.
“Many perceive Cruz as divisive,” the caucus goer said. “I wonder if any Democrat would vote for him.”
Cruz would disagree. At his victory speech Monday night, he said Reagan Democrats would be welcomed with "open arms."
Nevertheless, the Rubio supporter urged the voters in the room to think practically. Rubio, he insisted, exudes electability. Although he has been criticized for his being a part of the "Gang of Eight" immigration bill that seemed to promote amnesty, Rubio, the caucus voter said, deserves praise for extending a hand to Democrats.
“I’m glad he worked with Chuck Schumer,” he said. “We’ve got to go across the aisle. We can’t be divisive. We have to get things done.”
Following his speech, Rubio won the precinct by a sizable majority. The senator gained 71 votes, Trump came in second with 54 and Cruz came in third with 24.
While many voters told me they are unlikely to change their minds at a caucus event, perhaps this voter’s message is one that is resonating with Americans all across the country as Rubio's poll numbers continue to rise. Certainly, he was the big surprise of the night.
As my Uber driver said when I told him Rubio was the precinct 313 winner: “Really?”