He didn’t come close to qualifying for any of the debates. He finished so far behind in New Hampshire that he was beaten by several candidates who had already dropped out. And outside of
Trump mocking Ron DeSantis by noting that Binkley was the first candidate to visit all 99 of Iowa’s counties, the rest of the field has ignored him.
But he’s still here — and he’s leaning into the fact that
no one knows he’s running for president.
Binkley has been seeking the GOP nomination since April. He’s poured millions of dollars into his bid, though he continues to barely register with voters. His campaign highlight so far is beating former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson in the Iowa caucuses — in which Binkley received less than 1 percent of the vote.
New Hampshire was worse. Binkley finished with just over 300 votes, coming in behind dropouts Chris Christie, Vivek Ramaswamy and Mike Pence.
The Bink-mentum is going the wrong way. But he says he isn’t going anywhere.
He gets that voters support Trump — “Republicans are mad” about the former president’s indictments, Binkley reasoned in an interview with POLITICO. And if he drops out, he says he prefers Trump to Haley, but would back the ultimate nominee.
Binkley says he has teams on the ground in Nevada — where he’ll be competing against Trump in the party-run caucuses — and South Carolina.
“I’m not doing it to divide him, hurt him. I’m doing it for our country because I feel led to speak to this country,” Binkley said. “I’m trying to speak words that aren’t just for the Republican Party. … We haven’t had a president transcend our party or a party, I don’t know, since Ronald Reagan, maybe.”
Is that cross-party appeal achievable in this current political climate?
“I’m praying,” he responded.
POLITICO spoke with Binkley about his longshot campaign.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
The big question is, who is Ryan Binkley? When voters come up to you to ask that, what do you tell them?
I’m not a politician. I am a CEO. I’m a business owner. I am a pastor, a father of five, from ages 13 to 23. And I’m a candidate for president because I feel like our nation’s in trouble, financially and culturally. And I’m in this race because I believe we need an economic revival and a spiritual revival. And I care about our country and I’m speaking into that with everything I can.
Do you feel that’s resonating with people you’re speaking with on the trail?
No, not to the degree I would hope, because America never really looks up until we have to. So if you could have avoided the Great Recession in 2007, would you do anything different, or would you just ride through it? … At the core of this is deficit spending, which both parties do. It’s not a Republican or Democratic problem. It is an American problem that I’m trying to speak to.
What are you going to do to get this to resonate with more people?
I’m just shouting until enough people want to hear it.
You said you wanted to
get a few points in New Hampshire, but you ended up getting a lower vote share than Iowa. How are you feeling?
We spent most of our money in Iowa. We really felt like we needed to do well there coming out of the gate, and we did okay. We fought through, we made it past a few people beyond expectations. We had basically less time than we wanted — and money. And I think New Hampshire turned into just a two-person race really quick with [Haley] and President Trump. It was hard to really get any attention, which is understandable, but I’m gonna go to Nevada next week, and it’s me and President Trump who are qualifying for delegates there.
What’s your path ahead?
I’m in this race because I feel like God spoke to me to speak to America and you about our country and about the things that are missing. And what’s missing is a heart for each other. What’s missing is that we don’t focus on the least in society. What’s lost is that we’re not using wisdom financially.
Do you think the Republican Party is ready for that message?
Well, they haven’t been listening to it. And they’ve shut it out — in all honesty — completely. They’ve not wanted me at any events or anything like that.
So what’s success for you in Nevada, knowing that Trump is favored?
Success for me is just doing what I feel like God’s telling me to do.
Is there a percentage you have in mind?
I don’t really look at it that way. Obviously I would love to win some votes. But you know, at the end of the day, I’m gonna go to Nevada. We’re going to speak to the people there.
Do you think that there’s room for a non-Trump candidate this cycle?
It doesn’t appear … to be so. But at this point, I’m not focused on President Trump. I’m not focused on [Haley]. I’m not focused on anybody else.
Could you outline what would have to happen for you to end your bid?
God would just have to speak to me and tell me to end it. I would have done it anytime He said to. … But I feel like He’s saying, ‘Just keep saying this message right now.’
Have you had any ‘I can’t believe I’m here moments’?
All the time, beginning when we announced. I knew this from the very beginning that this would take miracles from God. … Nothing is a surprise. It’s cost me a lot. There’s a lot of mockery and all that. But I knew that too, going in. … I’m not even offended by it, honestly.
You’ve poured a good chunk of money into your bid. Do you have a number for how much you plan to invest going forward?
I don’t. We’re not going to be buying a ton of ads in South Carolina, that’s already being bought up. But we’re gonna keep sharing the message as we feel led to, and until I feel led to stop. … We’re going to start a grassroots movement. If I have to start going to places in urban America and let them know there’s Republicans that care about you, I will speak it out everywhere I can, but it’s not to divide our party or speak disparagingly about anybody.
What do you think your candidacy says about the nominating process?
I think history will only be able to tell that, if it has any impact on it at all. I hope it does, and I believe it will. And only God knows.
A version of this story first appeared in POLITICO Pro’s Morning Score newsletter.
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