Yesterday, in an item about CPAC, we wrote: "As usual, CPAC took a straw poll. Trump won with 62%. DeSantis was second at 20%. In third place was Perry Johnson (who?) at 5% and then Nikki Haley at 3%."
We thought we had maybe better go back and explain exactly who Johnson is. If you've ever heard of him (particularly if you're not from Michigan), it is probably because of the mini-scandal in which he was enmeshed last year. Though he has spent his entire adult life as a businessman, he wanted to mount a challenge to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D-MI), and submitted about 22,000 signatures to that end. In theory, that is well north of the 15,000 required by state law. However, the state elections bureau deemed nearly 10,000 of the 22,000 to be fraudulent and they tossed Johnson off the ballot. He raised a stink but there was little he could do, since the signatures really were phony.
In short, what we have here is a millionaire with no experience in political office and with a moral compass that is rather lacking. You wouldn't think someone like that could mount a presidential bid, but you just never know. And indeed, with his gubernatorial dreams in tatters, Johnson threw his hat into the Republican presidential race last week. After all, you don't have to collect signatures if you're on a major-party ticket, so there's no risk of being disqualified in that manner.
The big question is how Johnson got more CPAC support than a bona fide politician in Nikki Haley (not to mention the Mikes and other seemingly more serious candidates). There are two possibilities here. The first is that he somehow managed to get his message across to the right people. His signature idea is that, if elected president, he will cut spending by 2% every year that he is in office. Why people become enamored of simplistic solutions like these, which somehow never actually come to pass, we do not know. But Johnson is good at self promotion; for example, he bought Super Bowl ad time on TV stations in Iowa. So, maybe word about his silly proposal got around.
The other possibility is that Johnson managed to cook the books. A member of another quixotic presidential campaign, namely that of Vivek Ramaswamy, told Politico yesterday that someone at CPAC called up and offered to arrange a good straw-poll showing for Ramaswamy in exchange for $100,000+. Ramaswamy declined, and ultimately tallied just 1% in the poll. There is some reasonable evidence that the Ramaswamy campaign is telling the truth here. And if so, it is entirely plausible that the wealthy and known-to-be-sleazy Johnson paid up.
Incidentally, as long as we're on the subject, CPAC also held a vice-presidential poll. And your winner there was... Kari Lake, with 20% of the vote. She outpaced second-place finisher DeSantis, who was at 14%, and third-place finisher Haley, who was at 10%. Lake said she was flattered, but that she will not be able to serve as VP. You see, she's already the duly elected governor of Arizona, and you can't hold two offices at the same time. We are not making this up, that is really what she said. If there's a better demonstration of Poe's law than the fact that we just had to explain that wasn't snark, we don't know what it is.
Anyhow, we don't expect to write about Johnson much, beyond this item. But given where the Republican Party is these days, we just can't be sure, so we thought we'd better introduce him. And even if his candidacy doesn't take off, it's at least possible his silly 2% idea could. (Z)