Is governor race a money race?

Money. Money. Money.

In the Republican race for governor, it has emerged as a dominant factor and, at the same time, has changed the complexion of the race big-time.

Former Detroit Police Chief James Craig enjoyed “frontrunner” status months ago by the mere assertion that it appeared the “establishment wing” of the state Republican Party wanted him for the nomination. The state party chair, Ron Wieser, who will not fess up to that, had a huge hand in orchestrating the chief’s entrance into the race. The punditry class bought into the storyline, basically because it looked like nobody else deserved that title at the time.

Until now.

On Jan. 31, all of the 13 Republicans running for governor had to file with the state their quarterly fundraising numbers.

Craig filed, and that made news.

He raised $608,000, which is a respectable number, but certainly not the $2.5 million that a certain Democratic governor raised.

The problem for the chief was that he spent more than he took in, to the tune of $121,000.

Last time anybody checked for a GOP candidate running for anything from dog catcher on up, being able to balance the books is a pretty important conservative value, and to be in the red is just ripe for a Democratic attack ad on the alleged lack of fiscal responsibility.

To make matters worse for the alleged frontrunner, two other guys in the primary are rich enough to bankroll their own campaigns.

The former car guy, Kevin Rinke, is shelling out $2 million, and the newest contender, Oakland County businessman Perry Johnson, pledges to cough up $1.5 million of his own cash for an ad campaign including a lucrative spot in the Super Bowl.

As one wag put it, “We don’t have to worry about any Super Bowl ad from Chief Craig.”

So, what does all this mean?

If pollster Steve Mitchell and pundit Bill Ballenger are correct, Craig is no longer the top dog.

“Craig has lost that advantage that he had six months ago, and it’s kinda like starting from scratch at this point,” Ballenger asserts.

And, based on the cash issue, Mitchell agrees that the label has changed hands and into the hands of the two millionaires.

The Craig campaign was asked to comment on that development and issued a statement asserting that the citizens “respect candidates who put in the hard work to earn, not buy, their vote,” as he took a swipe at the two rich guys.

And, as for the commentary of Ballenger and Mitchell, the chief opines, “As the political pundits do their punditry, I’ll be speaking directly with Michiganders to earn their vote.”

So there.

To be fair, it is way early in this contest, and, in the latest statewide survey, Craig was doing well against the incumbent governor compared to all the rest.

And money, money, money isn’t everything.

Ask former Republican candidate for governor Dick DeVos, who shelled $32 million of his own money and lost to Democrat Jennifer Granholm, who spent considerably less.

But in a game where perception is reality, if Craig is the choice of the establishment, it has not opened its checkbooks for him as some expected, which is not the story you want out there.

And, if Rinke and Johnson continue to self-fund, all the other GOP candidates may have a tough time competing for votes, which is another story they don’t want to read.


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