Nonprofit, nonpartisan journalism. Supported by readers.


Rubio’s presidential campaign steps up efforts in Minnesota

REUTERS/Mary Schwalm
“Our focus right now is solely on getting Marco Rubio supporters to show up on March 1,” said Jeff Johnson, chair of the Rubio campaign in Minnesota.

Marco Rubio’s presidential campaign efforts in Minnesota are ramping up a notch.  

The senator’s operation, chaired by former GOP gubernatorial candidate Jeff Johnson, is working to secure a Rubio visit and is soon expected to release of roster of prominent political supporters in Minnesota.

The targets of this attention are the 50,000 or so Republican voters who will attend the state’s March 1 precinct caucuses and cast a binding presidential preference vote.   

“Our focus right now is solely on getting Marco Rubio supporters to show up on March 1,” said Johnson. “Our hope is to win the caucus and bring more delegates for Rubio [to the Republican National Convention] than anyone else.”

In a December straw poll conducted at a state Republican party leadership meeting, Rubio placed a distant second to Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who subsequently made a well-attended campaign stop in St. Paul. But Rubio’s supporters contend that he holds a competitive position among caucus goers in Minnesota, similar to other states where Rubio polls well against Cruz and Donald Trump.

“I think if I had to tell you one complaint over the past 20 some years of activists, it’s that we don’t pick a conservative that has a message that resonates among non-conservatives,” Johnson said. “Marco is able to do that.”

“We expected the straw poll results,” said Greg Peppin, an experienced political hand and volunteer member of Rubio’s state leadership team. Peppin said there is no question that as the primary season proceeds, candidates will drop out. 

“So where do those supporters go?” he asked. “You can draw a logical conclusion that Rubio stands to gain exponentially more than Cruz would.”

Jeff Johnson
Jeff Johnson

Former state Sen. Amy Koch is a Rubio supporter.  She’s comfortable with where Rubio places in the pack. “He’s been doing well in the debates,” she said. “He’s going to be top three in Iowa and New Hampshire.”  And Koch agrees with Peppin that Rubio is acceptable to supporters of Carly Fiorina, Jeb Bush, and Chris Christie. “You start to come to a candidate that unifies and besides being a young Latino, he can unite us.” 

Peppin says the Rubio operation consists of 50-plus volunteers working to recruit caucus goers at the precinct level, plus a dozen members of his leadership team.

Although the structure of the organizations differ, the size of Rubio’s team is on par with that of the Cruz, Rand Paul and Fiorina campaigns in Minnesota, though the latter three have paid directors who organize teams of volunteers.

As much as anything, the time and effort these campaigns are devoting to Minnesota demonstrate the anything-is-possible nature of the competition for the Republican nomination that could still be in question when Republicans meet in July in Cleveland. 

You can also learn about all our free newsletter options.

Comments (9)

  1. Submitted by Jim Million on 01/04/2016 - 11:48 am.

    Got This in One

    “…one complaint over the past 20 some years of activists, it’s that we don’t pick a conservative that has a message that resonates among non-conservatives”

    That’s a truism. Let’s see if Jeff Johnson can make this work. Maybe Minnesota might matter, for a change.

    • Submitted by Dennis Tester on 01/04/2016 - 12:56 pm.

      You either believe in freedom or you don’t

      You can’t make people want to be free.

      • Submitted by chuck holtman on 01/05/2016 - 12:03 pm.

        You can’t make people

        who want to be formally free actually free, when formal freedom precludes actual freedom.

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 01/04/2016 - 05:13 pm.

      Resonating Message

      A conservative with a message that “resonates among non-conservatives” is a conservative pretending to be a moderate. How is that going to work, once his true colors are shown?

      Have Minnesota conservatives damaged themselves by being for too long the party focusing oni Guns, God, and Gays?

      • Submitted by Jim Million on 01/04/2016 - 10:13 pm.


        A Moderate pretending to be conservative might gain support of the Real Right (my suddenly formed phrase of multiple meanings, as usual) and then govern with moderation to gain legislative support of moderate Liberals. Yes, sort of like Gov. Dayton tends to do from the moderate Liberal lane (I think).

        We need to get back to using the small “c” and large “C” in writing about these groups. One is philosophically cautious and protective, the other politically branded.

        • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 01/05/2016 - 10:25 am.

          On the Other Hand

          Never overlook the power of opportunism. Tim Pawlenty started as a moderate, but abandoned that when his name was mentioned as a possible presidential contender.

          The Real Right is more interested in ideological purity than it is in sensible governance.

          • Submitted by Jim Million on 01/05/2016 - 10:49 am.

            Quite True

            The same can be said for all extremities. Fortunately, we tend to govern from the middle third of that continuum. .

  2. Submitted by joe smith on 01/04/2016 - 05:16 pm.

    Why would Minnesotans want Rubio? I know why liberals like him but why would conservatives choose “liberal lite or diet progressive” with Cruz in the game? Might as well vote for another Bush and watch Government grow. Folks are tired of bigger, less efficient, bloated Federal programs that promise the moon and delivers toilet paper. Who is interested in another 12 years (yes, Bush started bailouts) of crony capitalism? Clinton, Jeb, Rubio all bought and paid for by big banks, business and special interests. Bernie can’t figure out why folks can get a secured loan for a house for 3% and college loans are 6-9% (hint to Bernie, it is called a secured collateral loan vs betting on a political science degree). Under the Obama regime the 1% have grown at an unprecedented rate, middle class families have seen their incomes drop by $3,000 a year, welfare has exploded, manufacturing jobs decreasing and part time jobs going up yearly. Gee, can we have more of that? Of course Minnesotans like Rubio, he’s Hillary without the baggage- diet Clinton- No thanks!

    • Submitted by Jim Million on 01/05/2016 - 11:12 am.

      So, give Marco some room to grow

      He may turn out to be another cosmetics salesman; however, he may also become the one who removes the TV lip rouge from several other candidates, Cruz included. It’s early yet, and Rubio seems to be presenting a lower profile of reasonable traditional Republican philosophy while seeming to offer a “bigger tent” than others–all in a well-organized outline presentation.

      We’ll see if younger or more moderate voters accept his various attributes. He speaks thoughtfully with calm tones and deference to traditional factions, all the while staying on his message. He may be the only Republican to gain electoral support in the Latino community while appealing to other groups now feeling left behind by other pols.

      Early days…so much haze…with time for many naps between plays.

Leave a Reply