Ryan Binkley is the only candidate still running against Trump in Nevada’s GOP caucus. Why?
For months, the Nevada Republican presidential caucus has been viewed as Donald Trump’s to lose.
The former president’s campaign lobbied intensely to influence the final rules of the Feb. 8 caucus, a party-run affair that cost $55,000 for candidates to enter, and one that purposefully excluded super PACs just as Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis began relying on a super PAC of his own to boost his campaign.
In all, six candidates filed to run in the caucus, and seven others filed for the state-run primary, which will not award delegates. But in the three months since filing closed, the presidential primary field has collapsed, and the number of candidates appearing on Nevada’s caucus ballot has continually winnowed.
All are off the ballot except for Trump — and Ryan Binkley.
Binkley is a longtime Texas businessman, the president and CEO of an investment bank, Generational Group, in Richardson, Texas. He’s also a pastor, the founder — alongside wife Ellie — of the nondenominational Create Church, also in Richardson.
He’s also running for the Republican nomination for president of the United States.
Though he launched his campaign last April, Binkley’s quixotic long shot bid has been largely on the campaign fringe. Already having spent $8 million of his own money to fund his campaign, he received just 0.7 percent of the vote in Iowa — 774 votes — good enough for fifth place.
In a Monday statement, he touted the result as being four times as much support as former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (though it was also about 11 times fewer votes than fourth-place finisher, Vivek Ramaswamy).
In an interview with The Nevada Independent Tuesday, Binkley again committed to coming to Nevada to campaign ahead of next month’s caucus. In doing so, he said he wanted to ask voters what they wanted — “Do you see something missing in America?”
Even as other candidates have dropped out, Binkley has remained a nonfactor in most states. In what few national polls that have included his name, he’s received somewhere between 0 percent and 2 percent support (well within the margin of error). A Nevada poll from Jan. 5 from Emerson College split the difference at 1 percent. With still little to no national name recognition, how does Binkley plan on beating Trump in Nevada — much less the delegate race to the Republican National Convention?
“We’ve known from the beginning that this would take a series of miracles,” Binkley said.
His message largely hews to GOP orthodoxy: The nation’s debt has ballooned unsustainably, the health care system has failed and the U.S.-Mexico border needs at least $30 billion for a border wall staffed by the military, National Guard and a revamped Department of Homeland Security.
“We've only balanced the budget one time in 30 years,” Binkley said. “And you did not hear a Republican presidential candidate in the debate, nor President Trump himself say this, ‘I'm gonna pay back the debt.’ And so if we're not gonna pay it back, we're gonna bankrupt it.”
However, pressed on a handful of Nevada-specific issues, Binkley said he was still “honing in on these issues” as he planned a pre-caucus visit next week.
Pronouncing it “nuh-VAH-duh,” he demurred on whether the federal government ought to be more involved in regulating the Colorado River, as California has clashed with other lower basin states as lake levels in key reservoirs, including Lake Mead, have plummeted in the last few years.
“I'll have to look into details about what needs to be done because there is a role for [the federal government] to play and we need to make sure that people of Nevada have access to fundamental energy and water needs,” he said.
And though he backed the expansion of U.S. nuclear energy resources, he also had “no interest” in re-opening the mothballed nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain.
Opposed to abortion, Binkley said the issue should still be left to the states and said a federal ban “is not even realistic to talk about.” In a handful of ways, Binkley has also rejected the GOP mold. He lamented a minimum wage that “hasn’t changed nationally in 14 years,” though did not specify precisely how it should increase.
“Now that’s not a Republican topic, but at the end of the day, shouldn’t we care?” he said.
He also called for bipartisan solutions to policy problems, including immigration and the federal budget. Asked how he would accomplish those bipartisan goals in an environment where Congress has struggled to agree on anything more than short-term spending bills and where an immigration compromise has, again, been left on the ropes — Binkley said he would “have to just sit there and do what Trump did with Twitter,” telling Americans that “this is what’s causing the problem” through the lens of a camera.
Binkley also frequently criticized the health care system and pharmaceutical companies. He said the Affordable Care Act was likely to collapse, to “get undone automatically,” by undoing state-by-state insurance monopolies but not necessarily requiring a repeal. He called for the U.S. to begin buying drugs from other countries to lower costs, end pharmaceutical patent extensions and did not oppose a move by Democrats to leverage Medicare to negotiate lower drug prices.
His path to the nomination, he argued, would be through a message of unity. He lamented that no Republican has transcended the party since Ronald Reagan, that Trump has abrogated any discussion of substantive policy issues on health care reform or the cuts to major government programs or policy aimed at helping the “working poor.”
Quoting Jesus by way of Abraham Lincoln, he said the house of the U.S. divided would not stand; that, in the words of Lincoln, “if destruction or danger ever comes our way, it’s going to be from us, ourselves, within.”
“The division in our country is going to continue,” Binkley said. “And that's something that President Trump is not speaking to.”
As for whether voters would actually respond to that message — a handful of Nevada polls from before DeSantis’ exit showed Trump with over 70 percent support — Binkley said he had been “banging on this wall in Iowa for a long time, and it was hard for them to receive it.”
New Hampshire, he said, has been “a little bit more” receptive.
Nevada, he hopes, “even more so.”