For Mitt Romney, the stakes have never been higher.
“If Romney cannot win Michigan, we need a new candidate,” a top GOP senator told ABC News. Politico’s Mike Allen reported that top Republicans are “poring over filing deadlines” in primary states and are devising a plan that would allow a new candidate to enter the Republican primary, in the event that Romney loses his home state.
Enter Michigan Republican governor Rick Snyder. Snyder, who endorsed Romney this week, brushes off Romney’s lagging poll numbers, describing the situation as “very fluid.”
“I think it’s still fairly early in the process,” Snyder says in an interview, predicting a change in Romney’s fortunes in the Great Lakes state. “I think you’re going to see a lot of progress,” he remarks.
“He’s focused in on jobs and economic growth,” the governor says of Romney. “When you go to Michiganders, that’s the top issue here, is about more and better jobs.”
Romney has been playing up his ties to the state, where his father George Romney was governor and where he himself grew up. In recent comments, he has peppered in local references. Still, a poll by Democratic firm Public Policy Polling showed that 62 percent of Michigan Republicans didn’t view Romney as a local.
But Snyder expects that Romney’s background will ultimately give him some edge over his rivals. “It’s not going to be their prime decision making criteria,” he remarks of voters, “but it is nice, because it shows he has an appreciation of the state and how great it is.”
Campaign visits and TV ads, Snyder adds, will also impact the race. Snyder, who was with Romney on the campaign trail this week, offers sthat Romney “was doing great connecting with people.”
While avoiding directly commenting on Romney and Santorum’s attack ads in the state, Snyder nonetheless stresses the importance of not alienating voters with negative campaigning. “There is a risk of people running negative ads and turning people off,” he says, noting he ran no negative ads in his own gubernatorial campaign in 2010.
Traveling around Michigan, Romney has been highlighting his stances against big labor, attacking Santorum for various pro-union votes over the years. And he has been talking on the stump about his support for a right-to-work law in the state, reports the Detroit News, a matter that Snyder has indicated previously he does not wish the state legislature to take up in the near future.
“In terms of emphasizing union issues, my approach is I don’t go on that path very often because I think the main topic is to stay focused on the jobs question,” says Snyder. Asked directly if Romney should avoid anti-union rhetoric, Snyder responds carefully. “I think that the biggest thing he should focus on is jobs and the challenges in Washington and how that is holding Michigan back,” he says.
Santorum has been attacking Romney for supporting the “Wall Street bailouts” but opposing the bailout of Detroit’s auto industry. (Santorum says he supported neither.) Snyder, for his part, questions how much voters care about the candidates’ positions on the auto bailouts. “I think it’s an overblown topic in many respects,” he says. “The main thing is the auto industry is working and it’s going well.”
And while Michigan hasn’t gone Republican in a general election since 1988, Snyder has no doubt that Romney is the Republican most likely to be able to turn the state red. “Gov. Romney would be the best candidate on the Republican side because of his emphasis on jobs and economic growth,” he says.
Snyder’s own experience as a candidate bolsters his nonchalant attitude to the polls showing Romney behind right now in the state.
“I know what it’s like to come back in the polls,” says Snyder, noting that he was a “margin of error” candidate at one point. “I ended up winning by 18 points in the general election.”
Because of that, he says, “I don’t overemphasize the polls as you go. “