Rubio makes his Iowa debut as possible ‘future’ of the Republican Party

“You saw that people were lined up all the way to the back of the room wanting to talk to him,” Gross pointed out. “So he’s got this sort of rock star mentality right now that George W. had as well, that’s really valuable too.”

Rubio also upped the formality of the event, according to one attendee, who said that the fundraiser had been much more of a “jeans and khakis” affair last year. This time around, most attendees showed up in suits.

But Rubio quickly brushed off any suggestion that his appearance in Iowa, which holds the first nominating contest every four years, had anything to do with the 2016 presidential race.

When asked why he was in Iowa on Saturday, Rubio simply and enthusiastically replied, “For Governor Branstad’s birthday!”

“I am not, nor will I ever be, a candidate for … offensive coordinator of Iowa,” Rubio joked in his speech. “I know there’s rumors.”

Branstad, too, denied that he was trying to encourage Rubio to run for president by inviting him to the event.

“They’re all good guys, and let me just say, I will welcome them to Iowa too,” Branstad said, when asked why he had picked Rubio to headline the fundraiser instead of other likely presidential hopefuls, like Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and former vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan.

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