WEST DES MOINES, Iowa -- If Heaven Shaffer wasn't so exuberant, you'd think she was part of a script designed to sweeten the image of Sen. Marco Rubio, who came here Friday to sign books and stoke talk he's running for president.
Shaffer, 22, a Republican and a Walmart clerk, arrived over an hour early and was first in line, clutching Rubio's book, American Dreams. When the Florida Republican showed up just after noon, she lurched forward and told him he'd make a good president.
"Oh, thank you!" Rubio replied.
For an hour and a half under the watch of a gaggle of TV and newspaper reporters, Rubio signed books, soaked up encouragement, made small talk — "Today's Friday the 13th? So far, so good. . . . Visit Florida, I promise you it won't snow" — and coolly stood his ground when confronted by an immigration activist.
He left little doubt he intends to move forward with a run and will stake a claim in Iowa, which holds the first nominating contest on Feb. 1, 2016. The "if" in the following seems a formality: "If I run for president," Rubio told one man, "I'm sure I'll be back quite a bit."