I first agreed to see Ryan Binkley at Iowa State University under the guise that it would provide some entertainment and leave me with an exciting story. You hear about Binkley infrequently, and you hear even less about him as a candidate. You may wonder, "Who is this guy?" and "Is he really running for president?" Believe me, I had the exact same thoughts as we trekked to Ames. Before December 6th, I could only tell you about Binkley: He owned a mega-church down in Texas and probably would not be winning the White House anytime soon. However, Binkley surprised me. To which I say Binkley: WTF.
When we first arrived at Iowa State University, there was a lot of traffic and commotion in the student center we were in. My classmate and I were shocked that so many people had come to see Binkley, but, alas, we quickly realized that people were instead getting ready for a big rival basketball game. As we were led to a back room in the student center, the halls got quieter and quieter. When we finally reached our destination, it was full of chairs and almost empty of people.
I walked right past Binkley as he waited to greet people by the door. He is rather unassuming and looks much different in person than on his website. I doubled back after realizing my mistake and was greeted with a huge smile. At this point, I thought, "Wow, this guy seems pretty normal." And normal he was.
After greeting every guest, he went to the front of the room to talk about his politics. It was a rather beautifully tailored-to-his-audience speech mentioning things important to college students, such as debt, the climate, inflation, etc. He genuinely commanded the room in a way that I have seen few candidates do. He spoke with passion and enthusiasm that people seemed to hang off his every word.
Furthermore, even Binkley's merchandise seemed tailored to fit his college-aged audience. He whipped out a bright red hat with bold block lettering saying "WTF" proudly on the front. He explained that WTF stands for his campaign slogan, "Way to Freedom," as the audience laughed, clearly enjoying the double entendre there.
While there were few audience members, those who were there seemed highly engaged.
They asked question after question, as Binkley answered with grace and poise. As one of the more moderate candidates throwing his hat in the Republican arena, the students seemed to respond to his more commonplace policies.
As I sat there, the longer the event went on, the more I wondered why Binkley did not have more name recognition or recognition or better polling numbers. To me, it seems that an excellent speaker with a compelling personal story and moderate viewpoints would have much more of a following.
After the event, Binkley again waited to greet every single person in attendance. He signed WTF hats (don't worry, I absolutely got one) and took selfie after selfie. The night didn't even end there, as he was off to play in a basketball game with supporters right after.
Overall, I am glad that I attended Binkley's event. I learned a lot more about who he is as a candidate and what important points he's campaigning on. Furthermore, I finally got answers to my two main questions: "Who is this guy?" and "Is he really running for president?".