Many people were probably surprised to see that Sen. Paul McKinley made the cut to be included in The Iowa Republican Gubernatorial Straw Poll. While McKinley has not made public his intentions in seeking the Republican nomination, he has been meeting with political operatives behind the scenes, indicating that a gubernatorial campaign is imminent.
McKinley is also making some very noticeable moves for those who are paying attention. First, McKinley is scheduled to be the featured speaker for two Iowa Christian Alliance events in western Iowa this month in Sioux City and Council Bluffs. These events (which are scheduled for June 15th) allow someone like McKinley to introduce himself to social conservative in that part of the state.
McKinley has also developed a new website, www.McKinleyforIowa.com. If you look closely at the site, the front page uses a disclaimer that reads, “Paid for By McKinley for State Senate,” but when you click on the “contribute page,” it reads, “Paid for By Paul McKinley for Iowa.” It might be a simple mistake, or it’s a clear sign that McKinley is running for governor. The timing is interesting for McKinley to be unveiling a new website. Why now? Isn’t this something that could make a lot of noise right before session? Unless, of course, he’s not building the site for his position in the senate.
The Conservative Statesman
In almost a decade in the Iowa Senate, McKinley has established himself as the conservative voice in that chamber. As a legislator, McKinley can point to his past voting record and various ratings and rankings he has received from organizations like the Iowa Right to Life Committee and the NRA to help convince Republican primary voters that he is the conservative candidate with a record in the race.
With partisanship at an all time high, voters are looking for people who can work together to solve the problems that face our state. McKinley looks, talks, and acts like a true statesman. This distinction could allow McKinley to gain the support of people in the party who may disagree with him on an issue, but respect the way he handles himself in the political arena.
It’s odd that someone who has been in the Iowa Senate since 2000 could be considered a fresh face, but when compared to Lamberti, Rants, and Vander Plaats, he’s the new kid on the block. Being the fresh face in the race brings advantages and disadvantages. The disadvantage is obvious; people don’t know him, which allows his opponents to define who he is. On the other hand, people always want to meet and discover someone new, and being a new face usually means a candidate is not lugging around a lot of extra baggage.
This is probably McKinley’s most glaring weakness. Having served in the State Senate for almost a decade, McKinley has done little to build relationships with Republican donors across the state or even in Des Moines. Gubernatorial campaigns need a lot of money to be successful, which means you need people to contribute serious money to your campaign. Fundraising is a relationship business. It’s very difficult to get someone you don’t know to write you a check for $25,000 or more. To run a serious campaign for governor against an incumbent, a candidate needs checks of that size contribution and larger. It will be difficult for McKinley to do this since he hasn’t spent time getting to know Republican donors in the state over the last few years.
As I’ve written before, I think McKinley has an opportunity to become a force to be reckoned with in the Iowa Senate. That said, all signs indicate that he is running for Governor. While his time as Minority Leader of the Iowa Senate helped raise his profile, his biggest hurdle will be getting known across the state, which costs money.
McKinley looks and sounds the part, but if any candidate has a difficult transition to make from their current position to a gubernatorial campaign, it’s McKinley. If he can find the ability to raise large sums of money, he may become a serious candidate. If he fails in that department, it might be difficult for him to get his feet off the ground.
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