NEW: With 18 Days Before Signatures Are Due to Make the Primary Ballot, Crain’s Chad Livengood Writes Post-Mortem of “Neophyte” James Craig’s Total Mess of a Campaign

“A campaign that looks to be adrift” … “Doesn’t come across as someone with the mastery of Michigan’s geographic details” … “Stopped mid-sentence and asked a crowd…what county he was standing in” … “Gave a lot of mixed messages on how he thinks he can win” … “Has lost two campaign managers since December”

Today, Chad Livengood with Crain’s Business Detroit penned a clear-eyed view of self-described “neophyte” James Craig as he runs his MIGOP-insider-propped gubernatorial campaign into the ground.

The piece comes as Craig has weathered an avalanche of recent negative coverage surrounding the departure of his third campaign manager in a row and the “absurd comparison” he made between himself and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. 

Livengood’s piece – which documents the fact that Craig has maintained a light campaign schedule and hasn’t managed to visit areas of Michigan “practically synonymous with Republican politics” – reflects the at this point widely-held notion that the Detroit Dodger’s clunky campaign still “hasn’t moved out of first gear.”

The earliest sign of Craig’s implosion was his fundraising report for the final quarter of 2021 as it revealed he raised less than half of what he did in the previous quarter and his “donations of $200 or less decreased 300% from July to October 2021.” The retiree’s schemes to fund his campaign have grown only more desperate since. Earlier this year, he tried to fundraise off of calling MSP troopers a bunch of “weak-kneed…underlings” who “abandon[ed] their jobs” to operate as cronies – then lied about it and claimed “campaign sabotage.” 

See excerpts below on Craig’s “adrift” campaign and read the full report here.

Crain’s Business Detroit: James Craig Aims for Votes in Detroit, But That Won’t Get Him Past the Primary
By Chad Livengood

Former Detroit police chief James Craig picked up the endorsement of Hillsdale Mayor Adam Stockford this week in his campaign to be governor.

The two men talked via Zoom. […] 

That Craig has been actively campaigning for the Republican Party’s nomination to be governor for the better part of nine months now and still hasn’t made the 100-mile trek down U.S. 12 to a town practically synonymous with Republican politics says a lot about a campaign that looks to be adrift.

When he formally kicked off his campaign to unseat Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in September, Craig was the man to beat, the guy who was getting a lot of free exposure to conservative voters through appearances on Fox News with host Tucker Carlson. […]

Now, six months later, he doesn’t come across as someone with the mastery of Michigan’s geographic details that would normally come with crisscrossing the state to reach Republican voters.

During a recent speech at Lansing’s downtown convention center, Craig stopped mid-sentence and asked a crowd of economic development leaders what county he was standing in.

“Is this Ingham County?” Craig said at a Michigan Economic Developers Association meeting, causing some heads to turn among a group of professionals who sell Michigan to the outside world every day.

Some may chalk this up as a candidate making gaffes amid grueling days of campaigning for statewide office, which normally entails 12-hour days on the road, on the phone and on a podium in multiple towns.

But for all of the polling that has showed Craig leading a pack of a dozen GOP hopefuls, he doesn’t appear to be running a conventional campaign of retail politics.

“I am a neophyte in this whole political arena,” Craig admits.

During a 40-minute telephone interview, Craig gave a lot of mixed messages on how he thinks he can win this jam-packed Republican primary that features two millionaire self-funders (Perry Johnson and Kevin Rinke), a Michigan State Police captain (Michael Brown), a West Michigan financial adviser (Michael Markey Jr.), a conservative commentator who’s caught the attention of ex-President Donald Trump (Tudor Dixon) and a guy who was spotted moving police barricades at the Jan. 6, 2021, U.S. Capitol insurrection (Ryan Kelley). […]

But then he criticized a former campaign manager who quit after concluding the former Detroit police chief was spending too much time in his hometown where fewer than 10 percent of the general election voters typically cast ballots for Republicans. […]

“If I disappear off the face of the earth (in Detroit) until I get through a primary … not seen or heard from in urban areas … and now I’m popping out of a little box and they say, ‘Well, where have you been for a year?” Craig said. “A lot of it has to do just principally who I am.”

Principles are one thing, a winning strategy is another. […]

Craig’s campaign has lost two campaign managers since December, which is not entirely unusual. […]

“I would respectfully disagree when people say, ‘Well, the campaign is disrupted, it’s fledgling,'” Craig said.

Craig also lost veteran GOP strategist John Yob, who concluded Craig did not want to put in the long days on the campaign trail in places like Hillsdale that are normally needed to win.

“Being a leading candidate for governor is more than a full-time job; it is one of the most difficult endeavors in American life,” Yob wrote in his Nov. 19 resignation letter to Craig. “It requires laser-like focus and around the clock, 12+ hours per day, 6 days per week workload. It also requires constant communication with your key supporters; to keep them inspired, engaged and willing to allocate their capital — time, financial and political — to you.” […]

Yob released his resignation letter to Crain’s and a statement that claimed Craig “has rarely campaigned outside of his favorite Detroit restaurants.”

After serving as police chief for eight years, which is about twice as long as any predecessor has lasted in recent memory, Craig sees Detroit as his political base.

“I think we have an opportunity to do something that’s never been done,” Craig said of winning votes in Democratic strongholds like Detroit, Flint and Saginaw.

That may be true.

But first Craig needs to win an unpredictable Republican primary.

And that usually starts with spending almost every day between now and Aug. 2 campaigning where Republicans actually live — and vote.

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