Politics & Policy

Will Rick Snyder Run for President?

Is Michigan governor Rick Snyder really going to add his name to the crowded field of Republican presidential contenders? While the obstacles to a relatively late-starting bid are considerable, the governor and his staff are sticking to a “haven’t ruled it out” line for now.

The question is what that “maybe, maybe not” stance signifies. Does it foreshadow a serious bid? Is it a coy attempt to attract national attention? A reminder to other candidates of his potential as a running mate? Or is it just the largely overlooked, fairly successful GOP governor of a blue state wanting a bit more recognition?

Talk of a Snyder bid exploded last Friday at a meeting of the Republican Jewish Coalition in Las Vegas, after former Minnesota senator Norm Coleman told reporters: “I met with Rick Snyder yesterday. He’s running. He’s running.”

Either Coleman misheard something in that meeting, or he let the cat out of the bag early. Snyder’s team is sidestepping the remark for the moment.

“The governor has indicated that he’s watching the presidential race closely and hoping a commonsense problem solver emerges, but he has not made any decisions about entering the field at this time,” said Jarrod Agen, Snyder’s communications director, echoing previous statements by the governor.

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Some Michigan Republicans are certain that Snyder’s mild-mannered, wonkish, “tough nerd” persona obscures some serious presidential ambitions.

Having said that, Snyder and his staff have had multiple opportunities to throw cold water on the talk of a presidential bid. When a Republican governor goes on a tour across the country to take credit for engineering an economic comeback in his state, just as the 2016 race heats up, it makes you wonder. Snyder’s speaking tour doesn’t look all that different from similar tours undertaken by such governors as Scott Walker of Wisconsin and Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, or such former governors as Jeb Bush of Florida and Rick Perry of Texas — all of whom are running for president, even though they haven’t formally announced so yet.

And some Michigan Republicans are certain that Snyder’s mild-mannered, wonkish, “tough nerd” persona obscures some serious presidential ambitions.

“Governor Rick Snyder looks into a mirror and sees a president looking back at him,” says Dennis Lennox, a veteran of Michigan Republican politics, including Mitt Romney’s primary campaigns in 2008 and 2012. “The whole Snyder-for-prez thing has gone from a far-fetched rumor a few months ago to something that seems very serious, especially given his explosion onto the national stage in the past week or so.”

Lennox theorizes that Snyder looks at the 2016 primary schedule and sees an opening that most other observers might dismiss.

“This has everything to do with the much-overlooked RNC Rule 40, which will prolong the nomination contest more than anyone thinks and makes it very unlikely that there will be a nominee by April of next year,” Lennox says. “Combined with the power of blue-state Republican primaries, as well as even the U.S. territories, it’s possible for a dark-horse candidate, such as Governor Snyder, to accumulate enough delegates to become a kingmaker.”

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Under Rule 40, “each candidate for nomination for President of the United States and Vice President of the United States shall demonstrate the support of a majority of the delegates from each of eight (8) or more states, severally, prior to the presentation of the name of that candidate for nomination.” In a sufficiently large field, it’s conceivable that no candidate will meet that threshold — or it’s possible that more than one wins a majority of the delegates in eight states. That could lead to a brokered convention, tons of drama in Cleveland, and even some sort of unity ticket. Of course, it’s also possible the GOP could see another runaway front-runner this cycle.

Another Michigan Republican, who favors another candidate and doesn’t want to be identified, suggests that Snyder aims to keep his name out there as a potential vice president or cabinet selection.

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Snyder was reelected in 2014, with 50.9 percent of the vote to Democrat Mark Schauer’s 46.8 percent. Michigan governors have been limited to two terms since a 1992 constitutional amendment, so Snyder will need something to do starting in January 2019.

If Snyder were to take a cabinet position or the VP slot in a Republican administration, he would resign in late 2016 or early 2017, allowing his lieutenant governor, Brian Calley, to ascend to the governorship and run in 2018 as an unelected incumbent governor.

It’s worth noting that, compared with the other big-name announced and about-to-be-announced presidential candidates, Snyder has no real national political network or operation, and there haven’t been any signs of the governor’s assembling one to become a nascent presidential campaign.

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#related#But even if the field were less crowded — and didn’t already feature one Republican governor of a usually Democratic blue-collar midwestern state in Walker, and perhaps another in Ohio governor John Kasich — Snyder would offer Republicans an unusual choice. Harry Enten of FiveThirtyEight.com concluded, “Using our aggregated ideological scale that takes into account congressional voting records (inapplicable to Snyder), fundraising, and public issue statements, Snyder is to the left of everyone in the Republican field save New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.”

Snyder has some indisputable conservative accomplishments. He signed a right-to-work bill in the state that’s home to the Big Three automakers.

He eliminated the state’s business tax, what he called “the dumbest tax in the United States.”

And he appointed an emergency manager for Detroit, after the city became the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history. On his national tour, he’s touting the success of the “grand bargainthat “cuts Detroit government workers’ pensions by 4.5 percent, erases $7 billion of the estimated $18 billion owed by the city from its balance sheet, and earmarks $1.7 billion to attack the deferred maintenance for the city’s essential services, including police and fire protection.”

But the Mackinac Center for Public Policy analyzed Snyder’s State of the State addresses and concluded that he averages seven proposed expansions of government for every two proposed limitations of government. And Snyder’s the opposite of a social-conservative crusader, going as far as to tell reporters, “Social issues, generally, I don’t take a position.”

Some topics are just a bit too tough for this one tough nerd.

Jim Geraghty writes the Campaign Spot for National Review Online.

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