Student finds challenges, rewards in Rubio presidential campaign work

In a presidential primary season packed with big talk and bigger personalities, Wichita State junior Hayden Squires is working for the Republican candidate who he thinks relates best to the typical American.

Sen. Marco Rubio’s parents emigrated from Cuba in 1956 and worked at various low-wage service jobs, according to the Republican Florida senator’s website.

A young, Cuban-American senator with political chops at just 44, and a backstory that embodies “the American Dream,” an editorial on CNN’s website last month pondered the possibility that Rubio could be “the GOP’s Obama.”

This is Squires’s first experience with campaign work. His official title is Resources Director for Kansas Students for Rubio, but he admits that is a technicality at the moment.

“It’s still a startup, so we don’t really have resources, technically,” said Squires. “I’m more of a liaison between grassroots campaigns here at Wichita State and the exec board as a whole for the state of Kansas.”

“Grassroots” is an accurate way to describe Squires’ day-to-day activities for the campaign. He has a “boots on the ground” role, sticking signs into yards and manning campaign tables.

Squires said some campaign tactics are more persuasive than others, and finding the right ways to persuade people to join Rubio’s camp is a challenge.

“We try this, we try that,” Squires said. “These candidates continue day in and day out to get people interested.”

He also compared some techniques, such as the aforementioned signs in yards, to advertising.

“It’s a lot of product placement, as well, having people see your sign,” Squires said. “It’s just about sparking their belief in one man that can change the world.”

He said that Rubio’s life experience makes him the most electable candidate in the primary.

“He’s the most like your average American citizen,” Squires said. “He grew up struggling, he had a lot of student loans coming out of college; some of these candidates come from pretty well-off families.”

Squires also agreed the most with Rubio’s positions on the pertinent issues of the day. Rubio is running on a conservative platform that advocates for protecting the rights of gun owners, reducing the federal government role in people’s lives and defeating ISIS.

The latest Republican polls have Rubio in third place, behind Donald Trump and Ben Carson.

While Squires would take any of the Republican candidates over Democratic frontrunners Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, he said he thinks Carson and Trump will eventually falter, leaving Rubio with an opportunity to win the nomination.

Squires said Rubio needs help from supporters of candidates behind him in the polls, like Ted Cruz and Jeb Bush. Once those candidates concede defeat, Squires said their supporters will be more inclined to back Rubio, rather than a more extreme candidate.

“It just depends on where those supporters of the other candidates go once they drop out,” Squires said. “I’m fairly confident they’re not going to go to Trump.”

For Squires, the ideal ticket is Rubio for president, with Carson or Carly Fiorina as vice president. With his campaign work, Squires said he feels he is helping make that dream a reality.

“Persuading one person to vote for Marco, to me, it’s really exhilarating,” Squires said. “You’re out there working hard to change the country in a way you want it to be.”