Who is Perry Johnson? It is a question not many American voters can answer. He has a grand total of 16,000 followers on Twitter and recently pulled in precisely zero votes in a poll in Des Moines, Iowa. He describes himself as a ‘self-made businessman, problem-solver and quality expert from Michigan’. Nevertheless, this slightly cadaverous-looking businessman has joined the running to be the Republican party’s candidate for president.
Does he stand a chance? Nope. The main way through he has found so far is by buying up advertisements on the right-wing channel Newsmax. There are claims that the channel has offered him favourable coverage – or indeed any coverage at all – in return for this largesse. Claims that Newsmax denies.
But is his case completely hopeless? Well, for any hopeless optimist the answer these days can always be ‘not necessarily’. Because there have been so many upsets in American politics of late that it’s understandable that almost everybody thinks they have a chance.
Take Vivek Ramaswamy, a 38-year-old entrepreneur and author of several anti-woke books. When he announced his candidacy for the presidency in February many people assumed it was just an exercise in profile-raising. I admit I thought along those same lines. I know Ramaswamy and like him. But it felt slightly like Lionel Shriver or Rod Liddle putting themselves forward for the job of UK prime minister. Yet Ramaswamy swiftly pulled ahead of some of the more obvious candidates, and this sort of breakout in turn gives everyone hope. Including false hope.
All polls still show Donald Trump way ahead in the field. His closest challenger is Ron DeSantis of Florida. But in some polls Ramaswamy is even pulling ahead of DeSantis, a testament partly to the uncertainty at the heart of the DeSantis campaign.
Ramaswamy has plenty going for him, but then almost everybody who puts themselves forward for the presidency believes they do too.