In a GOP presidential primary field that already features a former president, two former governors, and a tech-guru-turned-Fox-News-celebrity, Michigan businessman Perry Johnson wants his presidential campaign to be taken seriously.
It is a tall order in a race where former Vice President Mike Pence, who has 100 percent name ID among Republicans, is polling at six percent among current and potential candidates. Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie appears on a Sunday news show every week, and he still can’t break the one-percent mark.
Johnson has never held public office. He failed to make the Michigan ballot in his $7 million campaign for governor last year due to issues with fraudulent signatures on his nomination petitions. When Quinnipiac included his name in its polling mix last month, not a single respondent picked Perry Johnson.
But on Monday at 11 a.m., Perry will be at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics discussing his “Two-Cents Plan to Save America” budget plan.
The question is, will anyone else?
Johnson has already spent more than $1.7 million on his campaign, some of it on a Super Bowl ad in February that aired in Iowa and New Hampshire. According to his campaign, he spent more than $800,000 on TV advertising campaigns in the two states through the end of March. And he had $3.8 million cash on hand as of April 1.
But less than $6,000 has come from donors. The rest came from the candidate himself.
The campaign points to Johnson’s third-place finish in the CPAC straw poll this year, ahead of every potential or rumored candidate except Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis, as a sign he is gaining traction. But he earned third place with just 5 percent of the straw votes, well behind Trump’s overwhelming 62 percent and DeSantis at 20 percent. Five percent in a straw poll is a thin reed to rest an entire presidential race upon.
Johnson’s position highlights the monumental challenge facing all of the back-0f-the-pack candidates, like radio talk host Larry Elder (who officially entered the race last month) and former members of Congress Reps. Will Hurd (R-Texas) and Mike Rogers (R-Mich.). If Nikki Haley, a former U.N. ambassador and the only woman in the race, is struggling to get media attention or pop in the polls, what realistic — or even wildly unlikely — prospect do these candidates have to become players in the 2024 primary?
And then there are the new realities of political media. In the past, New Hampshire newsrooms were staffed with full-time political reporters and had stringers to cover events. The Boston newspapers might have sent a reporter up to the Granite State as well. Today, only a handful of regional reporters are covering the First in the Nation primary, making it even harder for longshot candidates to garner a headline.
Perry is pressing on, including a stop at the Red Arrow Diner Monday morning before his NHIOP event.
“I have enjoyed campaigning across Iowa but am delighted to take my campaign to New Hampshire for the very first time,” Perry said in a statement. “New Hampshire plays a unique but critical role in our elections process, and I couldn’t be more thrilled for the opportunity to talk about my Two-Cents Plan to Save America at such a storied institution as St. Anselm College.”