Snyder, Trump get more TV time as Calley-Schuette GOP fight intensifies

Jonathan Oosting
The Detroit News
Gov. Snyder and Lt. Gov. Calley in a new ad from Making Government Accountable

Lansing – Rick Snyder and Donald Trump are competing for airtime this week ahead of the Michigan Republican gubernatorial primary.

Neither the term-limited GOP governor nor the Republican president are on the Michigan ballot, but both have prominent roles in new television ads touting Lt. Gov. Brian Calley and Attorney General Bill Schuette, respectively.

Snyder endorsed Calley as his chosen successor in March, and this week began taking a more active role in the race with the Aug. 7 primary fast approaching.

The governor’s Making Government Accountable non-profit on Thursday launched a $1.3 million television ad campaign with a commercial that tells the Michigan “comeback story” and features both Snyder and Calley.

A narrator in the 60-second issue ad, which does not directly ask viewers to vote for Calley, says the Republican duo “ignored the politics and just thought about us.” Calley later says he and Snyder “reminded government that they work for you.”

Snyder also makes a cameo in an official new Calley campaign ad. As the Portland Republican plays piano with his band, which he does in real life, the camera pans to a shot of Snyder nodding his head to the beat.

Trump endorsed Schuette back in September 2017, and the Schuette campaign has repeatedly used footage of the president calling him a “great friend” when he last vistied Michigan for an April rally in Macomb County.

Schuette’s latest television ad again uses the Trump clip as the attorney general promises to be “tough” on illegal immigration and ban sanctuary cities if he is elected governor of Michigan. He is the front runner for the GOP nomination.

In the battle of endorsements, “Trump trumps Snyder” among GOP voters, said pollster Richard Czuba.

“Snyder’s numbers are still solid among Republicans, so it doesn’t hurt (for Calley) to use Snyder,” said Czuba, founder and chief executive of the Lansing-based Glengariff Group. “The problem is that Schuette has Trump, and Trump’s numbers are so strong with Republican primary voters.”

Calley has to use Snyder because “that’s what he’s got.”

The dueling ads come the same week as Snyder injected himself into a political fray by calling a request for a criminal probe into Schuette real estate documents a “serious matter." He added that the Federal Bureau of Investigation  must "be allowed to do a thorough investigation without any undue influence."

Ingham County Prosecutor Carol Siemon last week referred a request from East Lansing Attorney Mike Nichols to the FBI, which has not indicated whether it has any plans to investigate Schuette’s use of state staffers to witness and notarize a handful of private real-estate transaction forms.

Asked Tuesday if he thinks Snyder commented on the referral to help Calley, Schuette bemoaned what he called “phony, made-up charges” by critics on both sides of the aisle.

“It’s nonsense. It’s politics,” Schuette said on WRJ-AM 760. “This is happening because my opponents, Democrats and Republicans, are so desperately behind that they’ll throw everything but the kitchen sink — toilet seat, garbage, what have you,”

Snyder on Thursday denied his comments were politically motivated and he did not weigh in to help Calley.

“People asked about that particular topic and so we responded,” the governor told reporters. “We gave a factual statement that didn’t have value judgments in it.”

Snyder’s new TV ad is the second this year from Making Government Accountable, which is touting the governor’s accomplishments before he leaves office at the end of the year.

A February Super Bowl ad did not feature Calley, but he is in the new commercial because he’s “been a strong component” in the state’s comeback, said spokesman Kristopher Johnson.

The commercial is set to air on broadcast and cable stations from July 12 to 20. Federal television inspection records show the nonprofit is spending $262,600 to air the ad on WDIV-TV in Detroit as part of the larger $1.3 million ad buy.

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Twitter: @jonathanoosting