DUBUQUE, Iowa — Who says Iowans don't like to pick winners?
As the caucuses approach, Marco Rubio has increasingly been emphasizing his electability and the voters coming out to see him appear to be swayed by it.
Rubio made the point abundantly clear in all four of his events Friday while barnstorming eastern Iowa, touting his ability to broaden the conservative voting base while intermittently dumping on Ted Cruz.
"We have to nominate someone that doesn't just stand strongly with our principles, but somebody that can grow the conservative movement, and someone that can defeat Hillary Clinton," Rubio said. " I can defeat her or Bernie Sanders because we are going to grow the conservative movement."
"We are going to take our principles of limited government and free enterprise, and a strong national defense to the millions of people that have not been voting for us over the last 20 years," Rubio said.
Rubio, who currently sits behind Donald Trump and Cruz in recent polling, has drilled home the message since receiving the Des Moines Register's endorsement last week and getting Joni Ernst to introduce him in Des Moines.
"He's the most electable. He's a conservative, yet he's electable, and I can't say I can truly say that about a Cruz," said Mike Hess, 41, a pastor from Mt. Pleasant who decided on Rubio late this week. "Rubio in a debate with a Hillary or a Bernie would be very tenacious and, yet, very factual."
"Cruz is too edgy. You have to have somebody whose main talking point is not that the fact that I don't get along with Democrats," he said. "Eventually you have to work with the other party."
"It was between Marco and Ted Cruz," said Mick Angel, 63, from Mt. Vernon, who said he decided on Rubio this week. "I don't think [Cruz] is electable. I just think he doesn't appeal to enough people in a general election."
The comments came the same day Rubio continued press the case against Cruz as a calculating flip-flopper, which spilled over from Thursday night's debate.
"I think people are starting to learn the truth about Ted on immigration and a bunch of other issues shows a history of calculation, and I think it's starting to hurt him a little bit," Rubio told reporters.
Rubio, who labeled Cruz as the Iowa front-runner, made the remark before rattling off multiple alleged shifts in position from Cruz, including national security and ethanol.
"The list is endless," Rubio said. "I know we're not going to beat Hillary Clinton with a candidate who will say or do anything to gain a vote or raise money."
Lately, Rubio has seen a bump in the polls, with the latest NBC/WSJ/Marist poll putting Rubio in third with 18 percent support, his highest mark in Iowa since late October. Rubio is at 14.4 percent, according to the latest RealClearPolitics polling average.
"The Republicans have finally got their JFK," said Scott Motto, a 78-year-old Dubuque resident, who emphatically said electability is a key issue. "Hell yes. In a final analysis, I don't want either of the two candidates on the other side of the aisle. If [Rubio] gets the nomination, I convinced he'll [win the presidency]."
Motto added that he doesn't trust Trump in a general election because the Democrats would simply "scoff" at him, and is unsure of Cruz's prospects.
Rubio, who sits third in the Washington Examiner's latest batch of power rankings, is set for four more events on Sunday, the first of which will take place in Sioux City.