Snyder to launch national economic campaign

Chad Livengood
Detroit News Lansing Bureau

Lansing — Gov. Rick Snyder is preparing to launch a national campaign promoting Michigan's economic turnaround that Republicans say could be used to propel him into the 2016 race for president, or keep his name in the running for another federal post.

Snyder's supporters are creating a nonprofit advocacy group "Making Government Accountable: The Michigan Story" that the governor will use to travel the country seeking to "change the perception of Michigan and why it's a good state to grow a business or move to," spokesman Jarrod Agen said Friday.

Snyder is beginning the national road show with a speech at the Milken Institute in California on April 27, followed by a speaking engagement in New York in early May, Agen said.

Former state Republican Party Chairman Bobby Schostak and other Republicans close to the governor have been making phone calls in recent weeks seeking financial commitments to Snyder's national cause, three Republican sources told The Detroit News.

The effort has caused some to conclude Snyder wants to test the presidential waters in the coming months as the GOP primary field for the White House begins to fill up.

"He's moving toward running for president," said a Republican source with ties to Snyder.

The Republican Party sources requested anonymity because the donor outreach has been happening quietly in recent weeks.

Agen said linking Snyder's campaign promoting Michigan to any aspirations for the presidency "is speculating."

"He's happy being governor, he wants to go do this," Agen told The News. "I wouldn't be surprised that people want a problem-solver on a national scale, but he's focused on Michigan and he wants to promote Michigan to the rest of the country."

Snyder has said he would not make a decision about running for president until after the May 5 special election on the sales tax increase he's been urging Michigan voters to approve as part of a $1.2 billion road funding plan.

"There's time to evaluate opportunities," Snyder told the Associated Press last month.

Schostak did not return messages Friday seeking comment.

To date, national political handicappers have not considered Snyder to be a serious Republican presidential candidate. National pundit Larry Sabato recently removed Snyder from his four-tier list of potential candidates.

Some Michigan Republicans speculate Snyder is keeping his name in the mix of a crowded field of 21 Republicans to position himself for the eventual GOP nominee's running mate, or for a cabinet secretary position.

"On paper, Rick Snyder is an outstanding presidential candidate," said Republican strategist Dennis Lennox. "But in reality, unless his interest in talking to the hustings and rubber-chicken circuit has changed since last year, he's not running."

Snyder's record as governor has been centrist-leaning, as he's angered Democrats and organized labor for signing a right-to-work law and alienated some fellow Republicans for adding more than 600,000 low-income residents to the Medicaid health insurance plan under President Barack Obama's health care law.

Since taking office in 2011, Michigan's unemployment rate has dropped from 11.2 percent to 5.6 percent — which now mirrors the national average — while the state regained nearly 400,000 jobs lost during the recession of the last decade. On a national stage, Snyder is likely to tout his efforts to take Detroit through bankruptcy and give the Motor City a fresh start with billions of dollars in less debt.

In public appearances, the governor has played coy when asked whether he wants to run for president.

"I'm fired up being the governor of Michigan," Snyder said Thursday at the Pancakes & Politics forum at the Detroit Athletic Club. "And hopeful that comes across. This is not just a job. I love this state. ... I'm fired up to keep going."

Snyder recently shed a cast on his right leg that had anchored him in Michigan all winter after he ruptured his Achilles tendon while jogging on vacation in Florida in January.

In late March, doctors cleared Snyder to get on an airplane again. He headed to Washington, D.C., and gave a round of national media interviews that rekindled speculation about whether he has ambitions of residing at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue some day.

Michigan political pundit Bill Ballenger said Friday that speculation about Snyder as a presidential candidate is not unique for a Michigan governor.

Former Govs. George Romney, William Milliken, Jim Blanchard, John Engler and Jennifer Granholm all got mentioned in political and media circles as possible candidates while they were in office (even though Granholm would be ineligible to run because she was born in Canada).

"Whoever is governor of Michigan is going to be an item of speculation because Michigan is still one of the top 10 population states, it's a purple state and Snyder looks like the kind of (moderate) Republican who would do well in 2016," said Ballenger, associate editor of the Inside Michigan Politics newsletter.

"But I don't really think Snyder himself has any interest running for president or sees it as a possibility."

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