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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Mitt Romney's super fan is now Marco Rubio's in Iowa



Jim Wilson is Marco Rubio’s No. 1 fan in Iowa, showing up at each of the candidate’s events in his 2003 Chevy Silverado festooned with Rubio campaign logos. He plants a giant American flag in the back.

But Wilson, 72, of Buckingham, Va., never goes inside the meeting halls, schools and hotel banquet rooms. “They are boring. I could give the goddamn speech,” he says, laughing, a pipe freshly packed with Captain Black hanging from his mouth.

Politicos know Wilson. He did the same for Mitt Romney in 2012, charming reporters with his salty tongue and determined spirit. He stays in Motel 6 because it’s cheap and he can smoke, his last vice. 

“I have two requirements: clean sheets and hot water. I just sleep and go,” Wilson said Tuesday morning outside American Legion Post 34 in Oskaloosa, where Rubio was holding a town hall.

Wilson settled on Rubio about two weeks ago. He also likes John Kasich, the governor of Ohio, but says Kasich has no real shot at winning the nomination. What Rubio, 44, lacks in experience he makes up for in biography and focus on foreign policy, Wilson said.

“Rubio’s story truly is what makes America great. Two of my grandparents came through Ellis Island from Sweden. On the other side we have no idea. They probably were pirates.”

Wilson says he does it for his 10 grandchildren and because “our country’s in a pickle.” The Silverado – a gift from the Romney campaign after his other truck caught fire – is stocked with American Flags he gives out, three Blackberry phones and cooler.

“I live on sliced baked turkey, cole slaw and Swiss cheese -- I don’t eat bread; I used to be a real fat guy -- and gallons of coffee and tons of Diet Coke. I prefer coffee you can chew. If it was made during the Korean War, I’ll drink it. I don’t like church coffee.”

He gets a schedule from the Rubio campaign, just like a reporter, and shows up before events with the truck, a rolling advertisement. He said he isn’t paid.

Wilson predicts Rubio will finish “a solid third” in the Iowa caucuses. “And that’s a win.”

Having traveled all over the state, Wilson is skeptical that Donald Trump’s fans will turn ou caucus night Monday. “I don’t think they are people who will give up a beer and go sit with old ladies for an hour."


[Last modified: Wednesday, January 27, 2016 9:26am]


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