Tuesday, July 5, 2022

TIM SKUBICK: From no-name to frontrunner?

We’re about to discover whether she can go from “Tudor who?” to being the frontrunner in the GOP primary for governor.

Two weeks ago had you asked the same question, it would have been a no-brainer. Candidate Tudor Dixon had no way to get out in front of the crowded field of would-be GOP governors in waiting. She owned a putrid 2% name recognition with the electorate; she had just about enough in her bank account to buy a big whopper without the onions and while lots of folks thought there was something there, nobody was going to there to see it.

Put more directly, many in this town felt she was political toast in the making.

Ah but.

That was then and now is now. It’s a “Holy Cow” moment for the former media host, business executive, and mom and the political players in this town are wondering does she have a shot at this?

Thanks to an endorsement from Dick and Betsy DeVos, Ms. Dixon may have the bankroll to buy more name ID just like he did when he ran for governor. He started as “Dick who? and $35 million of his own money later, the Michigan electorate knew who he was. Unfortunately for the closet organizer salesman, the bulk of the voters still preferred incumbent Gov. Jennifer Granholm in the 2006 election.

That harsh reality aside, not only does Ms. Dixon have the couple’s moola, she can also potentially bank on the entire DeVos tribe opening their checkbooks too and flood her with enough money to move her closer to the GOP nomination. 

Why her?

The unconfirmed thinking inside the DeVos camp was that big spenders and other GOP contenders Kevin Rinke and Perry Johnson had the cash to run but there were deep concerns about what was in their backgrounds that might hurt them at the polls. Plus the rest of the field had virtually no chance the DeVos folks concluded. So that left Ms. Dixon who, with some propping-up the thinking went, might just be the one to take on the female Democratic incumbent.

With the GOP primary in shambles with the future of four candidates waiting to see if they can overcome charges of petition signature fraud to get on the ballot, the possible field is down to five including Mr. Rinke and Ms. Dixon, Garrett Soldano, Rev. Ralph Rebandt and rabble-rouser Ryan Kelley … no relation to Frank although he may be benefiting from that with the unsuspecting and grossly ill-informed electorate.

While you hear all those champagne bottles popping in the Dixon war room beware. The blessing from the DeVos family is a potential double edge political sword.

In a GOP primary, there is no question their money and election knowledge are invaluable to the novice candidate who couldn’t even raise enough bucks to run for the state senate.

However, while many R candidates lust for the Trump endorsement (he has not endorsed her at this read), when you move to the general election the “primary magic” goes poof as you discover there are some voters who can’t stand him and Betsy DeVos falls into the same boat.

So, the theory goes, when voters in general and female-independent citizens, in particular, see Ms. DeVos and Ms. Dixon together, it may not translate into yes votes. In fact, it may actually motivate some to vote for Ms. Whitmer instead.

But the Dixon gang is not worried about that yet. First things first. It must now figure out how to take advantage of this manna from DeVos heaven and translate it into the nomination in the August primary.

Heretofore unreported, former car dealer Mr. Rinke approached Ms. Dixon to be his running mate. She shot him down. Wouldn’t it be ironic if she got the nomination and asked him to ride shot-gun on a Dixon-Rinke ticket?

Tim Skubick is a syndicated political newspaper columnist who also anchors and produces the weekly PBS show “Off the Record.”

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