Rubio took one look at it and laughed. The drawing featured a thicker head of hair than one he actually does, something Rubio readily admitted. He signed the drawing and posed for a photo. Giese wasn’t alone last week in Iowa in his excitement — at all. Person after person came up to the Florida senator, looking for a photo or an autograph, full of praise.

Rubio invested early in Iowa and several of its winning candidates, including Senator-elect Joni Ernst and Congressman-elect Rod Blum. And as he stumped for them in the final days of the campaign, Iowans last week were not only happy to meet Rubio, they were enthusiastic about his message and many were openly eager at the prospect of a presidential campaign.

The immigration debate of 2013 undoubtedly damaged Rubio politically — irrevocably, according to many. But people in Iowa, the kind of people who show up to rallies for Ernst and vote in Republican primaries, are much more receptive to Rubio than you might think. People say they like Rubio — and they really like the domestic-focused, middle-class message he is trying to regain his political footing with.