Dem 51
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GOP 49
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Presidential Field Is Minus One Johnson...

You would be forgiven for forgetting that businessman Perry Johnson was running for president. The only line on his political résumé is a run for governor in Michigan that was ended when his candidacy paperwork was rejected for having too many phony signatures. During his presidential "campaign," he rarely registered in polls, to the point that the pollsters stopped asking about him. This being the case, he also did not come within a country mile of making any of the debate stages. With the writing on the wall in giant, neon letters, he ended his campaign over the weekend.

Johnson was running what you might call a "gimmick" campaign. Actually, "double gimmick" would probably be a better description. The first gimmick was his policy angle; he was basically a single-issue candidate, and his issue, as laid out in his self-published book Two Cents to Save America, was to cut discretionary spending by 2% every year. The intro to that book was written by Arthur Laffer, who was the intellectual force behind Ronald Reagan's trickle-down economics, so that gives you some sense of how realistic Johnson's ideas are.

The second "gimmick" was Johnson's plan for getting some attention and creating some buzz. After all, anyone can publish a book on Amazon; you still have to get people to buy it, read it, and then decide you might be worth voting for. So, he used his personal fortune to buy "influence" at various right-wing conferences, coming in third in the most recent CPAC conference straw poll (behind Donald Trump and Gov. Ron DeSantis, R-FL) and second in the most recent Turning Point USA conference (behind Trump). It is not a secret that a "respectable" finish can be arranged for at these conferences in exchange for a generous donation ($50,000-$100,000, which is pocket change for a fellow with a reported net worth in the low nine figures). His clear hope was that his "success" would cause people to look into his campaign and his ideas, and decide he was someone worth backing.

Clearly, neither gimmick worked, and so Johnson came up short. Sometimes gimmick candidacies do gain traction; Steve Forbes' 1996 and 2000 campaigns (flat tax), Ron Paul's 2008 and 2012 campaigns (isolationism) and Donald Trump's 2016 campaign (build the wall) were all gimmicky, at least at the start. Perhaps it says something that this is more likely to work on one side of the aisle than the other; readers can decide for themselves about that. What we can say for certain is that it did not work for Johnson. (Z)

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