CEDAR RAPIDS, IA – Marco Rubio just left the stage at the Doubletree Hilton in Cedar Rapids, IA, but as I finish writing this piece, there are still about 200 people who are waiting for a chance to shake hands with Rubio personally and talk to him about the issues. Rubio spoke for about 45 minutes and even though I’m sure the campaign trail has worn on Rubio, he was still able to clearly move a crowd of typically savvy Iowa voters.

 

Before the event, the crowd was lined up and doubled around the large ballroom entrance of the hotel:

 

I spoke with numerous people who atended the rally, and unlike most states, where people tend to only go to see the rallies for candidates they support, this crowd is still very much made up of undecided voters who have already been to see several other rallies, and are likely to go to a couple more before they caucus tomorrow. I spoke with numerous voters who are still undecided between Rubio and Cruz, and even a couple who have narrowed it down to Rubio vs. Trump (!), and one woman who said she wanted to vote for Fiorina but felt like she might need to vote for Rubio as a way to stop Trump.

Overall, if the crowd here in Cedar Rapids is typical of the Iowa electorate at large, there are still huge segments of the voting population who are very much up for grabs, and they are paying attention closely. Rubio kept to his largely positive message, hitting Hillary and Obama, but not mentioning any of his fellow Republicans by name.

However, Rubio made his appeal very clear when he closed the speech: “When I started this process and I would come to Iowa, I would hear people say, ‘Well, I’ve narrowed it down to seven.’ Now, I hear people say, ‘I’ve narrowed it down to two.’ And I just want to encourage you to go home tonight and pray about your decision and understand that we cannot beat Hillary if we are divided.”

Afterwards, a huge crowd stayed to get a word with Rubio, who stayed, speaking to every potential voter:

 

During the scrum afterwards, I ran in to friend of RedState Adam Hasner, the Speaker of the House in the Florida House of Representatives, who’s in Iowa to support Rubio. Hasner was working the crowd, fielding the ever-present questions about Rubio’s record on immigration. At the end of the conversation, Hasner’s inquisitors walked away apparently mollified and I pried him away for a conversation.

“I’m encouraged about the process and seeing people come to a decision and understanding that what we need is to win this election,” Hasner noted. “And that’s not an electability play, it’s just giving people a visualization of what this country would look like if Hillary Clinton was elected for President.”

Rubio’s official campaign staff steadfastly refused to engage in any speculation about expectations for tomorrow, but they are clearly optimistic, without mentioning specifics, that Rubio can finish with surprising strength and emerge from tomorrow with at least a media victory, if not a caucus victory.