How Marco Rubio's Debate Performance Has Transformed His Campaign

The latest GOP debate has catapulted Rubio into the limelight.

ByInes De La Cuetara
November 03, 2015, 11:52 AM

— -- About 400 people attended a Q & A session with Marco Rubio earlier this month in Greenville, South Carolina, organized by Concerned Veterans for America.

The presidential hopeful had a polite back-and-forth with the moderator, then went on to take a few questions from a tranquil crowd. He greeted voters until the last of them had gone, then walked over to a handful of reporters. Just a few of them were from the national media. They calmly took turns asking questions before the Florida senator had to leave to make a flight. This would be his last public event before the third Republican debate. Like many of Rubio’s events this summer, it was all very calm and well-orchestrated.

But in the days and weeks after the latest Republican debate -- and before the next one in Milwaukee one week from today -- it seems those days are gone.

Following a breakout performance at the latest debate, Rubio is now getting a taste of the intensified scrutiny and support that has surrounded other Republican front-runners for quite some time now.

In the early hours of the morning after the debate, Rubio was doing back-to-back interviews with all the major TV networks. The "big three" all wanted him for their morning shows. He’s had several more TV appearances since then, including on one of the Sunday shows.

A few days later, in Des Moines, Iowa, Rubio’s team was visibly overwhelmed with the amount of attention Rubio received at the GOP Growth and Opportunity Party.

Iowa voters listened attentively during his speech. A mob of reporters and audience members then aggressively followed him all the way back to his tent, where voters waited in line to try to get through the cluster of cameras and microphones that encircled Rubio. The Florida senator spent a good 30 minutes shaking hands, signing autographs, and taking pictures. More than once, the Rubio team had to ask the crowd to take a step back. And while Rubio usually tries to make it to all the voters that come to meet him, on Saturday, more than a few were left hanging when he had to rush out.

Reporters from virtually all the national media outlets were present at the event that included several of Rubio’s rivals, including Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz and Carly Fiorina.

The team that travels with Rubio tends to be small. It’s usually his body guy, a press person, and his advance team. Field staffers and local volunteers will meet Rubio on location.

At one point at the GOP Growth and Opportunity Party, Rubio’s small entourage was forced to resort to blocking the exits of a building so as to prevent reporters from chasing their candidate outside, all the way down to his car (the strategy didn’t prove to be effective for very long). Rarely, if ever, did Rubio face similar circumstances over the summer.

Luckily for the campaign, the renewed interest in Rubio post-debate is also manifesting itself in other, more convenient ways. His campaign says it has raised over a million dollars since Thursday’s showdown.

Rubio has also won the endorsement of Paul Singer, an influential New York billionaire who is expected to donate millions this election cycle.

And on Monday, Rubio received his first Senate endorsement -- that of Sen. Cory Gardner, of Colorado.

Gardner is part of a fresh new group of senators that some pundits have pointed to as the future of the party, so his support plays well into Rubio’s generational argument.

"I thought Marco did an excellent job of framing what I believe to be what Colorado and this country want, somebody they can be excited about, somebody who is looking forward toward the future, not looking back at the past,” Gardner said on Monday.

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