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Rubio, back in Iowa, celebrates Reagan and stumps for Senate candidate Ernst

@CAdamsMcClatchy

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, a Republican from Miami and potential 2016 presidential candidate, was back in Iowa Tuesday, speaking at an event honoring the legacy of former President Ronald Reagan and lending support to a candidate in one of the hottest Senate races in the nation.

Rubio is backing Joni Ernst, a Republican state senator from the small southwest Iowa town of Red Oak who is battling current U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley. The winner will replace retiring U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, a Democrat.

At the Scott County Republican Party's annual Ronald Reagan dinner Tuesday, Rubio talked up a "new American century" but said it won't get started as long as the "outdated ideas of the political left” remain, according to the Quad-City Times, a newspaper on the state’s eastern edge.

Before the dinner – attended by more than 600 people – Rubio campaigned with Ernst, a surprise story of the 2014 midterm elections who got an initial boost before the primaries from Rubio.

Aided in part by a last-minute assist from Rubio, Ernst came from behind to win her Republican primary in June. In doing so, Rubio has said, he made an exception to his no-primary rule.

Rubio has offered his support to other Republican Senate candidates, trying to help the GOP win the chamber – a prospect that looks more and more likely. The time and visibility in Iowa could also help Rubio in 2016, as the state holds a pivotal early caucus in the GOP nominating process.

The Ernst campaign received two other boosts on Wednesday: a new Quinnipiac University poll that shows her up 4 percentage points over Braley, and an endorsement from former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

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