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— Marco Rubio is all over the map in Iowa. Quite literally.

Having spent little time in the state’s rural Christian conservative northwest, the Republican presidential candidate dropped in to Sioux County for the first time last week, then bounced across the state two days later to speak with some of Iowa’s more fiscally conservative voters in the east.

“I’m going to trust that he knows what he’s doing,” state Rep. John Wills, who supports Rubio, said after his campaign stop at the Christian Dordt College in GOP-rich Sioux Center. “I hope he gets the chance to get up here again. Northwest Iowa is where you win.”

Rubio began an uninterrupted nine-day run Saturday ahead of Iowa’s lead-off caucuses next Monday. His itinerary includes college towns, larger cities and rural outposts.

After months of promising that his campaign was on the verge of ramping up in early-voting states, Rubio appears to be following through in the Iowa homestretch.

He dismisses the notion that he’s changing in the 11th hour to play catch-up with rival Ted Cruz, who has dedicated significant time and resources toward campaigning across the state. Rubio has focused more on Des Moines and the state’s other urban areas.

Rather, “it’s an indication that the caucuses are eight days away,” Rubio said Saturday during a campaign stop in Indianola.

In the chess game of early voting, Rubio needs to finish in Iowa ahead of mainstream GOP rivals like former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. If he does, undecided voters in the upcoming contests in New Hampshire and South Carolina could take notice.

Despite the scattershot appearance of Rubio’s schedule, a pattern of building toward caucus day was beginning to take shape over the weekend as he drew large, diverse and engaged crowds, picked up endorsements from some of Iowa’s larger newspapers and appeared Monday with the state’s freshman U.S. senator, Republican Joni Ernst.

“I feel good where that is going to lead,” Rubio said of his campaign on Monday.

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