The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Rubio fires up some

Senator Marco Rubio speaks to a crowd at the Coralville Marriott on Monday Jan 18, 2016. Senator Rubio covered topics in his speech such as repealing Obamacare. (The Daily Iowan/Jordan Gale)

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio has long stressed his policies are more than just talking points. He has lived them.

“I didn’t just read about it or respond to it in some magazine article,” Rubio said of his experience with college loans and growing up “paycheck to paycheck.”

In Coralville, Rubio found a receptive crowd for that argument, but one that was not quite ready to commit to caucusing for him on Feb. 1.

Just two weeks away from the state’s first-in-the-nation caucuses, more than 350 people lined the walls of one of the Marriott’s many conference rooms. Afterward, attendees said Rubio, a first-term U.S. senator, stands out of the crowded field because of his speaking ability and life experience.

“He’s younger, his parents were immigrants, and he can related to people of my generation,” said University of Iowa freshman Alaina Handrick, who is trying to choose between Rubio and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul.

Many of those who said they might support Rubio listed Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, currently leading in statewide polls, as another member of their top two.

RELATED: Rubio, Cruz exchange hits on security

“Marco has more of an ability to work across the aisle without compromising on his beliefs,” said Iowa City retiree Shirley Knapp.

Despite being the national Republican front-runner and leader in other early states, such as New Hampshire and South Carolina, Donald Trump was not on any of their minds. In fact, many attendees had harsh words for the former reality TV star and business mogul.

“Trump’s rhetoric is just too brutal and divisive,” said Dayna Miller, a clinical assistant professor of pediatrics at the UI Hospitals and Clinics.

“An automatic win,” Handrick said if Trump becomes the nominee.

Opting against an open Q&A format, Rubio stuck largely to same stump speech he has used throughout the campaign. As a member of the Senate’s Intelligence and Foreign Relations Committees, Rubio said President Obama’s foreign policy and spending cuts have left American less safe.

“What has happened is that reductions in defense cuts leave us as vulnerable, “ Rubio said, noting that some Republicans who pledged to cut all spending needlessly included the Pentagon.

According to Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, an international think tank, the United States spends more on defense in 2014 than at least China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, France, the United Kingdom, India, and Germany combined — some experts also include Japan.

Miles away from a nearby VA Hospital, Rubio harked back to issues in the system that delayed care for many veterans and led to Secretary Eric Shinseki’s resignation.

In Iowa, Republicans hammered Rep. Bruce Braley, who was running for the U.S. Senate, over missing Veterans Administration hearings.

Pledging to have a busy first day in the White House, Rubio promised to gut regulations and executive orders passed by the Obama administration — specifically pointing out the EPA and Common Core education standards.

Rubio said he would repeal the Affordable Care Act, as known as Obamacare.

According to Politico, Republicans in Congress have voted for such an action more than 50 times, including partial repeal measures, in the past five years.

Monday’s stop was the fourth stop on Rubio’s jaunt through the state, which also included Decorah, Waverly, Ottumwa, and Bettendorf. On Jan. 16, he visited Johnston, Council Bluffs, and Sioux Center

In some Iowa GOP circles, Rubio has earned the nickname “Mayor of Ankeny,” a Des Moines exburb, for his focus on the state capital and its suburbs — a knock at his perceived lack of attention to eastern Iowa and other parts of the state.

Polk County GOP head Will Rogers, who was at Rubio’s event in Johnston over the weekend, said some Iowans are starting to gravitate toward Rubio. But he says the field is just too divided for someone such as the senator to emerge.

Plus Rogers said Rubio, like many candidates, is still in Trump’s shadow.

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