GOP battle over undecided Iowans intensifies

Steve Peoples
Associated Press

Cedar Rapids, Iowa – — Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz are fighting for the favor of many of the same undecided voters across Iowa, where even some of the most attentive Republicans say they can’t make up their minds less than four weeks before voting begins.

That was so among Iowans who gathered before sunrise to hear Rubio at a town-hall-style meeting in Cedar Rapids. The Florida senator impressed the crowd but few left having decided if he would get their vote.

“I haven’t settled on one candidate 100 percent,” said Mike Grover, a 65-year-old Cedar Rapids man who is among the thousands of “persuadable voters” still up for grabs.

In small towns from Cherokee to Sioux Center, an overwhelming number of would-be voters said both Cruz and Rubio are in contention for their support. Their policies, personalities and presumed ability to defeat the Democratic nominee in the fall are all under close examination. Donald Trump comes up often as well, as do Detroit native Ben Carson and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

At 44 and 45, respectively, Rubio and Cruz are the youngest candidates in the 2016 field and the only Hispanics.

“I’ve seen Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz,” Connie Peterson, a retired 74-year-old Republican, said Wednesday at a Rubio event in Marshalltown. “In ways they seem similar, and I can’t make up my mind there.”

A day earlier, at a Cruz rally along Iowa’s western border, Mondamin real estate agent Lary Clark said he was also torn between the Texas senator, a sharp-tongued combatant in Washington, and the smoother Rubio.

“I want somebody who’s going to be able to win the general election,” Clark said. By his calculation, Cruz or Rubio, with their Cuban-American heritage, may be best positioned to capture Latino votes in November.

Cruz is working to build on his strong Iowa polling this week with a 28-stop, six day bus tour focused largely on small towns and farm communities. Rubio is making four stops over two days, having spent nine days in the state over the past month, his campaign said.

Rubio, who is lagging behind Cruz in the polls, is bluntly challenging Cruz’s commitment to national security, while Cruz casts Rubio as an establishment favorite who supports “amnesty” for immigrants in the country illegally.

Undecided voters say they need more time to sort through the big pack of contenders.

“There’s been so many,” said Iowa corn farmer Jim Nelson of Cherokee. “We’re trying to go through them all. Give them all a chance.”

People in early voting states like Iowa and New Hampshire are notoriously late deciders and the fact they have a dozen contenders to choose from is making their decision all the more difficult.

A Bloomberg Politics/Des Moines Register poll conducted last month found that only 33 percent of likely Iowa caucus-goers had made up their minds.