Snyder downplays White House run 'speculation' — again

By David Shepardson and Chad Livengood
The Detroit News

Washington — Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder is headed to California on Monday to tout Michigan's economic turnaround, where he'll likely face more questions about whether he'll run for president.

Snyder called published reports last weekend that he told former Minnesota Sen. Norm Coleman he's decided to make a presidential bid a "lot of speculation."

But the second-term Republican governor has refused for months to shoot down speculation that he may launch a campaign for the White House. Last week, he met with influential Republicans in Las Vegas at a Republican Jewish Coalition meeting, including billionaire Sheldon Adelson, a GOP mega donor and RJC board member.

Coleman, who also is a member of the RJC's board of directors, made headlines Saturday when he told reporters in Las Vegas that Snyder plans to jump into the GOP presidential primary race.

"I met with Rick Snyder yesterday. He's running. He's running," Coleman told reporters, according to the Daily Caller and the Guardian.

Late Sunday, Coleman stood by his remarks.

"I noted that the field of potential Republican presidential candidates was far from complete and made specific mention of Gov. Snyder, who has an impressive record of accomplishment," Coleman said in an email to The Detroit News. "It was my clear impression, from my conversation with him, that he is running. However, I will leave it up to Gov. Snyder to confirm whether or not he is officially a candidate."

Coleman plans to support South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, should Graham formally enter the field of Republican presidential candidates.

At reception Saturday night hosted by BloombergNews at the White House Correspondents' Dinner, Snyder said Coleman's conclusion that he plans to run for president is a "lot of speculation."

"I had a great visit with the RJC and I think they got excited by Michigan," Snyder told The News. "With respect to the (presidential) race, I hope we get a common-sense problem solver out there and I am just watching."

Asked if it was fair to say he is considering a run for president, Snyder told The News: "It is fair to say I am just watching what's happening."

Snyder has said he will wait to decide whether to run for president until after the May 5 special election on the sales tax increase he's seeking for a $1.2 billion road funding plan.

Earlier Saturday, Snyder spokesman Jarrod Agen issued a statement that did not directly respond to Coleman's claim that Snyder plans to make a bid for the White House.

Pressed further to talk about his plans, Snyder said: "I would be happy to give you a sheet we handed out."

Many think a Snyder run is a long shot. Other Midwestern Republican governors, including Wisconsin's Scott Walker and Ohio's John Kasich, won their re-elections by larger margins and are getting a lot of buzz as possible candidates. Both have visited early GOP primary states of Iowa and New Hampshire and acknowledged they are seriously studying a run for president.

Snyder will speak at the Milken Institute global conference Monday on his experience of taking Detroit through bankruptcy reorganization. "I've been wanting to tell the Michigan story for a year or so and now I'm starting to tell it," Snyder said Saturday.

Supporters of Snyder recently created a private fund to pay for his stepped-up, out-of-state travel, which some Michigan Republicans see as a move toward joining the crowded field of GOP contenders.

Bobby Schostak, the former Michigan Republican Party chairman, is raising money for the fund, dubbed "Making Government Accountable: The Michigan Story."

Schostak, who also is a member of the Republican Jewish Coalition's board, accompanied Snyder on the trip to the organization's spring meeting at the Venetian hotel in Las Vegas.

When asked if he met with Adelson, Snyder said he met with the RJC board and a number of board members.

"The Michigan story's a good one," Snyder said, echoing the theme of his stepped-up national travel.

Snyder was not a keynote speaker at the RJC meeting Friday. GOP presidential candidate and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, was scheduled to speak, as was former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who is mulling a second White House bid.

"The feedback to Gov. Snyder at the RJC was excellent and created a lot of buzz," Agen said in an email to The Detroit News. "The governor indicated that he's watching the presidential race closely and hoping a common-sense problem solver emerges, but he has not made any decisions about entering the field at this time."

Snyder flew from Las Vegas to Washingon on a red-eye that was delayed by three hours. Snyder wasn't at a table up front at the dinner, but seated next to Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter. Guests at nearby tables included former Michigan Gov. John Engler, now president of the Business Roundtable, and Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz.

Snyder chatted with Michigan native and former Obama aide Gene Sperling and others, including Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Deaborn.

Ari Fleischer, an RJC board member and former White House press secretary for President George W. Bush, told the Guardian that Snyder didn't explicitly tell "the board he was running" for president.

"He made a real strong presentation about his results and successes in Michigan," Fleischer told the Guardian.