This article was first published in the On the Trail 2024 newsletter. Sign up to receive the newsletter in your inbox on Tuesday and Friday mornings here. To submit a question to next week’s Friday Mailbag, email onthetrail@deseretnews.com.

Good morning and welcome to On the Trail 2024, the Deseret News’ campaign newsletter. I’m Samuel Benson, Deseret’s national political correspondent.

This will be our last newsletter until the new year. I’m taking next week off — I hope you get some time to enjoy the holidays, too.

Here’s our latest 2024 election coverage:

The Big Idea

The presidential candidate you’ve never heard of

Ryan Binkley is still running for president. That may come as a surprise. He’s received little media coverage since his visit to the Iowa State Fair in August. You may have forgotten he was still in the race, or forgotten he existed. Or, more likely, you’ve never heard his name until now.

The businessman and pastor doesn’t mind. He’s going all-in on Iowa, convinced that if he can get his message to enough voters there and finish in the top four, he can somehow pull himself into competition for the duration of the Republican primary. Never mind that he’s polling so close to zero percent that many national polls don’t include his name. Never mind that in a recent Deseret News/HarrisX poll of Republican voters, a majority didn’t know enough about him to say whether he should keep running or drop out — and another two-fifths said he should drop out.

If he doesn’t finish in the top three or four in Iowa next month, he told me, he’ll probably have to end his campaign. Until then, though, Binkley is focused wholly on getting out his message. He’s a deficit hawk who wants to cut federal spending. He’s worried about young people, who face a future of skyrocketing housing and health care costs. And he’s concerned about the spiritual state of the nation, where neighbors don’t love neighbors anymore.

“I recognize that in our country, not everybody shares the same faith,” said Binkley, who leads a nondenominational Christian church in a Dallas suburb. “Jesus’ main words to us were to love our neighbor. What does that mean today?”

To Binkley, it means strong neighborhoods and strong communities, where individuals volunteer and care about one another. But it also means creating economic opportunities, promoting civil liberties and caring for the poor. “I’m not just talking about giving them money,” he said. “Jesus never called on the government and said, ‘Hey, be sure and hire a government to take care of your neighborhoods.’”

Binkley has five children — the oldest is 23 — and he wants to build a better America for them. He views lowering interest rates and dishing out Treasury bonds as a horrible financial policy, and his primary priority would be balancing the federal budget. He thinks he can do it in seven years. “The rich get richer and the poor get poorer — not because of bad tax policy, but because inflation eats up the money of the people in the lower income strata,” Binkley said.

There’s something refreshing about Binkley’s message. He says he wants to win the Republican nomination in 2024, but the likelihood of that is on par with the U.S. paying off its debt next year. But that doesn’t faze him. When I asked what his message is to young voters, he didn’t ask for their vote, because most of them aren’t Republicans. He instead asked them to pick up a book on macroeconomics. “College students should be marching on Washington, telling D.C., ‘Quit spending my future away,’” he said.

Maybe he’ll catch fire among Iowa voters before the Jan. 15 caucus. More likely, he won’t. He acknowledges that missing the first debate in August stunted his momentum, as most voters have just never heard from him. But he’ll be on the ballot in a number of states — Utah included — and enough voters are resonating with his platform, Binkley said, that he’ll keep going.

“Every time we go meet with people, they tell us, ‘Stay in the race, this is a different message,’” he said. “And so we really keep doing that.”

Weekend reads

I spent this week in Phoenix covering TurningPoint USA’s AmericaFest conference. (Read my story here.) It was a who’s-who of America First conservatives, from Tucker Carlson and Mike Lindell to Steven Bannon and Kari Lake. Oddly enough, it seemed Nikki Haley, not Biden, was the politician they all attacked the most. Good writeup from Andrew Egger here: MAGA’s Newest Punching Bag (Andrew Egger, The Dispatch)

Does the GOP primary end in January? That’s the message Trump is selling Iowa voters, telling them that a dominant win in the state’s Jan. 15 caucus will mark the first — and last —competition. “We can put this to bed after Iowa,” he told voters recently. “We can put it to bed for them, too, they can go home and forget it.” But that overlooks the next contest, in New Hampshire, where Haley is surging and Trump could face real competition. How The 2024 Primary Could Turn 2016 On Its Head (Stephanie Murray, The Messenger)

Chris Christie is wildly unpopular among Republicans nationally. But in New Hampshire, he’s gaining a foothold, polling third behind Trump and Haley. While his whole campaign is geared toward tearing down Trump, some strategists now fear he could end up helping the former president — by pulling Trump-skeptical voters away from Haley. How Christie became a ‘monumental problem’ for Haley — and a potential boon to Trump (Alex Isenstadt, Politico)

Again, no newsletters next week. I’ll see you again on Jan. 2.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Samuel

Editor’s Note: The Deseret News is committed to covering issues of substance in the 2024 presidential race from its unique perspective and editorial values. Our team of political reporters will bring you in-depth coverage of the most relevant news and information to help you make an informed decision. Find our complete coverage of the election here.