Michigan Democrats Shy Away from Running Against Right-to-Work Governor

by John Fund

Democrats convinced themselves last month that Michigan governor Rick Snyder was political toast after he signed a controversial measure making it the 24th state to adopt a right-to-work law.

Public Policy Polling, a Democratic firm, found his approval rating had fallen to 38 percent in the wake of the right-to-work-controversy. Voters also said they would back a repeal of the law by 49 percent to 40 percent.

“Just last month we were talking about how much Rick Snyder’s popularity had improved over the last year,” asserted Dean Debnam, the president of PPP, in December. “In the last week he’s thrown that all away and now ranks as one of the most unpopular governors in the country.” There was even talk of recalling Snyder, despite the failure of a similar effort by unions against Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin.

My, what a difference a few weeks make. Internal polls taken by both parties show the governor’s numbers recovering as newspapers report increased interest by companies in relocating or expanding in Michigan. Potential Democratic candidates for governor are now shying away from the contest.

This week state senator Gretchen Whitmer, the Democratic leader in that body and the perceived front-running candidate for governor, suddenly announced she wasn’t running, citing the need to spend more time with her young children. National Journal reports that “no one seems eager to fill the void.”

Representative Gary Peters says he’s focused on his work in the House. Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero is a demagogue with limited appeal to moderate voters. State Board of Education president John Austin is telling reporters he is “not actively considering pursuing (the race)

now.” That may leave former congressman Mark Schauer as the most likely Democratic challenger, but he has limited statewide name recognition and resources.

Governor Snyder may discover that good public policy can indeed equal good politics if Democrats continue to struggle to come up with someone to run against him.

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