OPINION

10 GOP gubernatorial candidates: who’s the cream of the crop?

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Michigan's Republican Party is lining up a record-breaking 10 candidates for governor this year.  

I could say any one of the 10 will become Michigan's next governor, but that's not realistic. 

Only one of the candidates has any widespread name ID in Southeast Michigan. Only two candidates have any money to spend to bolster their name ID. 

So, who is the cream of the crop, as "Macho Man" Randy Savage once said? And what are their chances of winning the nomination? 

— Perry Johnson: 50%. In a field deprived of candidates with resources, Johnson has the most, and he's spending it. The self-described "quality guru" has already put $3.2 million in TV ads, boosting his name ID to frontrunner status in some areas. Now, he's going after former police chief James Craig in the Metro Detroit media market. 

Also, Johnson's consultant, John Yob, has maneuvered himself into possibly scoring Johnson with Donald Trump's endorsement for helping put Trump candidates in a position to win convention races. 

The only question for Johnson is if he connects with voters. So far, the words I hear from regular people about his ads are "funny-looking," "weird," "creepy," and "arrogant." That's not great. 

Rick Snyder in 2010 was a rich guy, too, but enough people found his self-deprecating humor authentic and charming. Johnson isn't that. But if it's the name you know … .  

 — James Craig: 23%. He should be at 50%, but the former Detroit police chief squandered his frontrunner status as the chief who didn't let Detroit burn. He blew too much money and became mostly invisible since his wild Belle Isle rollout.  

Craig is the only candidate with instant name ID and he's still leading in Southeast Michigan polling. Can his third campaign manager help him turn it around? 

 —Kevin Rinke: 18%. The Southeast Michigan business executive is wealthy but not Perry Johnson wealthy. He doesn't want to get into a spending war, but he may not have a choice.  

Rinke is on network TV with a dreadfully boring ad. His old GTO v. Yugo ad caught him flak, but it made him look cool … for those who remember it. 

 —Tudor Dixon: 5%. If you lined up all 10 candidates in a room full of conservatives, had each candidate speak for five minutes and had the audience pick a favorite based only on that, Dixon would win. She's that good on the stump.  

Sharp. Articulate. Convincing. Strong. Attractive. That's not the way this is playing out, though.  

Dixon blew all of her early money on the costs of raising money and hasn't raised enough to earn her the confidence of people who REALLY want to endorse her. Trump and the big Republican funders in West Michigan have been holding back until Dixon can show she's viable on her own. 

She's good enough on TV that if she can put something together in the next month or two, she could still pull it off, but the clock is ticking. 

 — Garrett Soldano: 3%. If this field of candidates didn't include Ryan Kelley, Donna Brandenburg and Ralph Rebandt, the Kalamazoo-area chiropractor and anti-COVID mandates leader would have the grassroots/forensic audit conspiratorial wing of the party to himself. He'd have a solid shot at winning the nomination with 25% of the vote. 

With all four of them in the race, though, he's going to struggle to get past 15%. In his latest press release, he suggested Governor Whitmer and the FBI cooked up those criminal charges against her alleged kidnapping plotters to drum up sympathy votes for her reelection. 

Why bothering connect with mainstream voters when you can take a sharp right turn into the deep weeds of conspiracy? No wonder he's broke. 

 —Anyone else: less than 1%. It's possible Michael Brown, Michael Markey, Rebandt, Brandenburg and Kelley could do something to catch fire. Right now, though, they are more likely to flame out. 

(Email Kyle Melinn of the  Capitol news service MIRS at  melinnky@aol.com.) 

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