Shades of Snyder: Rich GOP candidate takes field with newest Super Bowl ad


We all remember the “One Tough Nerd” Super Bowl ad of 2010 and the less-than-successful “China” Super Bowl ad Pete Hoekstra tried in 2012.

This year’s promised political ad is someone you’ve likely never heard of, but you’ll likely hear a lot more from.

Perry Johnson, 74, is a charismatic, self-made multimillionaire and nationally renowned expert in quality standards. In certain circles, he’s credited with helping Ford and General Motors figure out how to make better automobiles in the 1980s when Japanese automakers were eating our lunch.

He’s a former Fortune 500 executive who has written several books and become a national expert on ISO 9000, ISO 14000 and other practices designed to improve quality and productivity in the workplaces.

According to one estimate online, the Bloomfield Hills resident’s net worth is measured in the hundreds of millions of dollars. We’re talking Dick DeVos-like wealth. It’s a different stratosphere than Rick Snyder or Shri Thandear.

He brought in John Yob, the notable Republican political consultant who successfully steered Snyder through the 2010 primary. Together, apparently, they’re about ready to spend a lot of money in an attempt to win the Republican gubernatorial primary.

Who is this guy? Physically, he looks like Martin Short or Christopher Walken. He’s a renown public speaker. In growing his consulting business, Johnson often used sports analogies in his inspirational speeches to line-workers on how to track improvements in their output.

Last fall, he was so lathered up during the Michigan Republican Party leadership conference, he literally shouted about the “absurdity” of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s COVID-era restrictions.

“Isn’t it great to be an American? Doesn’t it feel fantastic? I am an American! THANK GOD I’M AN AMERICAN! THIS IS THE GREATEST COUNTRY IN THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD!!!”

The GOP grassroots ate it up with a spoon. To the casual listener, though, it felt like John Travolta giving Uma Thurman an adrenaline shot to the heart. We can expect Johnson to dial it down a notch in probably some clever TV ads.

Should we take him seriously? Yes. In the last 13 gubernatorial major-party primaries since 1994 in which the Republicans and Democrats had declared candidates raising money in the year prior, the person who had raised the most money won 11 times.

Johnson comes a little late into the party, but none of the other 12 candidates in the primary have much in the way of name ID. Former Detroit Police Chief James Craig was at 44.7% in the last poll. So, more than half of the state doesn’t know who he is. 

The conservative grassroots in the party seem to be coalescing behind Garrett Soldano, a Kalamazoo-area chiropractor, but that could change depending on what former President Donald Trump does. Trump had another candidate at Mar-a-Lago last week, an alt-right political commentator named Tudor Dixon. He said nice things about her, but he didn’t endorse her. Dixon would seem to have an “in” with Trump seeing she’s working with Trump aide Susie Wiles. 

Like every other politician, Trump wants to get behind a winner, and we’re not sure Dixon is that. She hasn’t raised a ton of money and has spent nearly everything she’s been able to raise. That may be why she didn’t get an endorsement.

He may be a little gun shy after making, arguably, some hasty legislative endorsement. But we honestly don’t know what Trump is going to do in this race, if anything. At this point, it’s fair to say half of Republican voters don’t know any of the candidates. Outside of another millionaire in the race, Kevin Rinke, none of them have the ability to do the statewide, multi-month TV buy Perry Johnson can pull off.

Rinke has some personal baggage with some less-than-flattering lawsuits from the 1990s that a Dixon-connected PAC is already bringing up. It’s fair to say there are four candidates in the best position to win the GOP primary at this point. Craig is a known quantity. Soldano has great organization. Trump can turn anyone into a frontrunner. 

And Johnson with his money instantly shoots him to the top of that discussion, too.

(Email Kyle Melinn of the Capitol News Service MIRS at melinnky@gmail.com.)


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  • RobbieRo

    Oh ugh. Another rich republican with way more money than compassion for the people of Michigan. His every move will be to support the wealthy. I saw the ad and was disgusted. A minor point but one I feel strongly about is how ridiculous it is for old people (and I am one) to dye their hair a color totally unnatural for their age. Who are they trying to fool? Just points to vanity to me. Misplaced vanity at that as it does NOT make them look younger and he was no exception.


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