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September 29th, 2011

Senate Republican SNAFU

State Senator Bill Dix’ attempt to challenge Senate Minority Leader Paul McKinley for his leadership role in the State Senate has come up short.  Unable to secure the necessary votes to oust McKinley, Dix has reportedly called off his request to caucus with his Senate colleagues today.

This is an embarrassing moment for Senate Republicans, as Dix comes off as unorganized and cowardly for challenging McKinley while he is traveling out of the county, and the current senate leadership have been exposed as being aloof when it comes to political responsibilities of the job.

There is no way to sugarcoat what has transpired in the last few days.  If you don’t realize how dysfunctional things are, all you need to know is that the Republican House Leaders are leading the effort in Senate District 18,  not Senate leadership.

That should alarm everybody, regardless if you are a Dix or McKinley backer.  While it’s good that Speaker Paulsen and his team are actively involved, Senate Republicans cannot expect the House to carry the water to help them win a Republican majority in the 2012 elections.  In fact, the incompetency of the Senate team raises the question about whether or not they are even capable to doing what it takes to win a majority at all.

Here is my unvarnished opinion on Dix and McKinley:

Senate Minority Leader Paul McKinley

A number of people have criticized Dix for challenging McKinley when he is out of the county on vacation.  McKinley being on vacation while the balance of the senate is up for grabs is a major problem.  All leaders make sacrifices, and McKinley needs to be engaged in the special election.  As the leader of his caucus, he is the number one fundraiser Republicans have, yet he’s vacationing, and major Republican donors have not heard from the Senate Republican Leader in months.

McKinley’s trip is also reminiscent of Newt Gingrich’s two-week vacation just weeks after he announced that he was running for president.  The media skewered Gingrich, as did voters, for his lack or seriousness in regards to his campaign.  As a result, Gingrich struggled to raise money, lost key allies and staff, and saw his chances of success evaporate overnight.  The same is true of McKinley.

As leader of Republicans in the Senate, McKinley’s job is to lead Republican in to battle on the Senate floor as well as at the ballot box.  It’s obvious that McKinley is either not engaged or is incapable of leading the Republican campaign effort.  I guess we shouldn’t be surprised.  This looks an awful lot like his 2010 gubernatorial campaign.

State Senator Bill Dix

Make no mistake, Dix could have handled his confrontation with McKinley differently. has been told that Dix had the votes to oust McKinley during the last legislative session but to failed to pull the trigger.  His decision to confront McKinley in the midst of a high profile special election seemed odd, but he had a strong case to make against the current leadership, yet he never went public with his grievances.

It’s been no secret that Dix has his eye on a leadership position since announcing that he would run for the senate.  Dix is a gifted campaigner and has repeatedly proven that he is willing to help his fellow Republicans with their campaigns, but when it comes to mounting a leadership campaign, he falls short.

Obviously Dix thought he had the votes to take out McKinley when he emailed his Republican colleagues on Tuesday morning.  However, Dix made a major tactical error.  He never made sure that his votes were able to be in Des Moines at the time he called for the caucus to take place.

His lack of organizational and communication skills is what did in his attempt to take control of the Senate Republican caucus.  Dix has also been haunted by indecision, and the combination of all these factors raise a number of red flags about whether or not Dix has the necessary skill set to be an effective leader in the first place.

Dix is now credited for causing a distraction, and in doing so, has forfeited any future opportunities to become the Senate Republican Leader.  Sadly, instead of becoming a leader in the senate who can help Republicans gain the majority, Dix has become the boy who cried wolf one too many times and is now a distraction.

The ramifications of what has transpired over the past few days are profound.  The Republican caucus in the senate is now fractured more than ever.  Despite having a chance for shared control of the chamber before the next legislative session and good odds at winning the majority outright in the 2012 elections, Republicans in the senate seem more focused on an internal turf war than doing what it takes to actually win.



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About the Author

Craig Robinson
Craig Robinson is the founder and editor-in-chief of, a political news and commentary site he launched in March of 2009. Robinson’s political analysis is respected across party lines, which has allowed him to build a good rapport with journalist across the country. Robinson has also been featured on Iowa Public Television’s Iowa Press, ABC’s This Week, and other local television and radio programs. Campaign’s & Elections Magazine recognized Robinson as one of the top influencers of the 2012 Iowa Caucuses. A 2013 Politico article sited Robinson and as the “premier example” of Republican operatives across the country starting up their own political news sites. His website has been repeatedly praised as the best political blog in Iowa by the Washington Post, and in January of 2015, Politico included him on the list of local reporters that matter in the early presidential states. Robinson got his first taste of Iowa politics in 1999 while serving as Steve Forbes’ southeast Iowa field coordinator where he was responsible for organizing 27 Iowa counties. In 2007, Robinson served as the Political Director of the Republican Party of Iowa where he was responsible for organizing the 2007 Iowa Straw Poll and the 2008 First-in-the-Nation Iowa Caucuses. Following the caucuses, he created his own political news and commentary site, Robinson is also the President of Global Intermediate, a national mail and political communications firm with offices in West Des Moines, Iowa, and Washington, D.C. Robinson utilizes his fundraising and communications background to service Global’s growing client roster with digital and print marketing. Robinson is a native of Goose Lake, Iowa, and a 1999 graduate of St. Ambrose University in Davenport, where he earned degrees in history and political science. Robinson lives in Ankeny, Iowa, with his wife, Amanda, and son, Luke. He is an active member of the Lutheran Church of Hope.

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