Snyder decides against running for president

Chad Livengood
Detroit News Lansing Bureau

Running for president is not on Gov. Rick Snyder's agenda.

"I do not have plans to run for president in 2016," Snyder said Thursday in a statement, ending a brief flirtation with what was seen as a long-shot White House run. "I will focus my attention on continuing Michigan's reinvention."

Despite citing a list of accomplishments and describing Michigan as a model for the rest of the nation, Snyder said he still has "historic issues to solve" in the state.

Snyder had been weighing the immediate summer-long out-of-state travel commitment of a presidential campaign with his unfinished initiatives of overhauling Detroit public schools and getting a new deal with lawmakers on increasing road funding after voters defeated Proposal 1 on Tuesday by a record margin.

Bobby Schostak, the former state GOP chairman, had been quietly advising the governor for months, raising money for a national tour to promote Michigan and injecting Snyder into the national presidential discussion.

"The people who know him said 'This can't happen.' The people who don't know him said 'Why can't this happen?' The support was there," Schostak told The Detroit News.

Schostak said he and other Snyder supporters had used their contacts around the country to introduce the governor and gauge support for a presidential campaign "for a few months."

"When the volume got louder in terms of the quantities of people speaking up saying, 'Would you look at it? Can you look at it?' it became apparent this was going to take a large amount of time to get him in a position where his name ID would be high enough where he could compete," Schostak said.

"He said to me 'I can't be in four states in one day and solve Michigan's problems.' I'm sure it was a hard decision because he was getting a lot of interesting people encouraging him."

Snyder's statement that he won't run for president came after his office Wednesday night denied a report by Politico.com that he had opted against jumping into the race.

The governor previously said he would make a decision on whether to seek the presidency after last Tuesday's election.

"The timing of the announcement is curious given the resounding defeat that Proposal 1 had," said David Dulio, chairman of the political science department at Oakland University. "It's a bit of a nod to the fact that he knows he's got to get the roads done — that might end up being his legacy."

Snyder traveled to New York City on Thursday for a Site Selection private dinner and a Friday morning visit to the New York Stock Exchange to ring the opening and closing bells, followed by a lunch briefing with Bloomberg News.

The New York visit is part of Snyder's new privately funded national travel initiative to promote Michigan.

Late last month, he traveled to Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., and Las Vegas as part of the tour.

But the stop in Las Vegas at the Republican Jewish Coalition meeting prompted the most speculation about whether Snyder was actively courting donors.

Former Minnesota Sen. Norm Coleman met with the governor and formed a "clear impression" that Snyder was going to join the crowded field of Republican presidential candidates.

Snyder later tamped down Coleman's comments, telling The News "I am just watching" the GOP presidential field develop.

Republican political operatives and pundits thought a Snyder White House campaign would be a long shot to win the GOP nomination.

"It's a rational decision," said Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia's Center for Politics. "I don't know how he could have foreseen being nominated. He's too moderate and completely unknown, and it's highly unlikely that he would have been able to put together the money needed to compete with the front-runners."

Snyder registered a favorable rating of 4 percent in a April 23-26 survey of 462 Iowa Republican primary voters conducted by the North Carolina-based firm Public Policy Polling.

"Snyder's favorability numbers are about what you would get for a name picked out of a hat, suggesting he starts out with zero profile in the state at all," PPP pollster Tom Jensen wrote in an April 28 memo.

Two Midwestern Republican governors — Wisconsin's Scott Walker and Ohio's John Kasich — won their re-elections by larger margins than Snyder's four-point win over Democrat Mark Schauer in November and are getting a lot of buzz as potential candidates.

Both have visited early GOP primary states of Iowa and New Hampshire and acknowledged they are seriously studying a run for president. Walker made a swing through Michigan on Monday, while Kasich was in Detroit last month.

"Clearly he doesn't have name ID like some of the other guys do because he hasn't been out promoting his name like the other guys do," Schostak said. "It's not his nature. And that does work against him in terms of a poll that looks at a name ID."

Dulio and other political analysts were not convinced Snyder was up for retail politics required to capture the coveted first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses or prevail in New Hampshire's tone-setting primary.

"I never thought that (Snyder) would make a good candidate, only for the fact that I'm not sure he likes campaigning," Dulio said.

Political observers also said Snyder's spring testing of the presidential waters came too late in the process.

Higher-profile Republican candidates have already hired experienced staff for national fundraising, communications and campaign operations in states such as Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina with the first in a series of nominating contests in early 2016.

"I think that any candidate right now who doesn't have those three things lined up … no matter how well known they are known nationally would have a problem," said Ron Weiser, a national Republican fundraiser and former Michigan Republican Party chairman.

Snyder's national travel plans also got hamstrung by a ruptured tendon and blood clot that hospitalized him for four days in February.

In his statement, Snyder said he intends to continue promoting Michigan's economic turnaround.

"I will continue to tell Michigan's comeback story nationally because our reinvention should not be unique to just our state," Snyder said.

Snyder's decision to opt against running for president comes at the end of a busy week in the Republican race.

On Monday, former Hewlett-Packard Co. CEO Carly Fiorina jumped into the race as famed neurosurgeon Ben Carson launched his campaign from his native Detroit. The next day, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee kicked off his second attempt for the GOP presidential nomination. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz have announced their candidacies as well.

Fiorina will be in Lansing on Tuesday for a Michigan Chamber of Commerce Foundation event in Lansing.

clivengood@detroitnews.com