Lennox: Bill Schuette for president?

Dennis Lennox

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette for president? It’s not that crazy of an idea.

The attorney general is now the odds-on favorite for the Republican nomination to succeed Gov. Rick Snyder.

While Snyder prefers Lt. Gov. Brian Calley — the governor and Schuette have never been close — the Flint water crisis will be a huge dynamic in 2018.

Then there’s the fact that lieutenant governors aren’t terribly successful in winning higher office. The exception, of course, was Bill Milliken, who holds the record of longest-serving governor. But Milliken only became governor because George Romney resigned to serve in President Richard Nixon’s administration.

At one point, many thought Snyder might resign after the presidential election, as a twice-elected purple state governor would surely be on the shortlist for a cabinet post of a Republican president. The ghost of Flint, however, makes that scenario unlikely.

Imagine: November 2018, two years into the Hillary Clinton presidency.

Not only did Schuette win the GOP nomination, but he overcame the winds of electoral change — in a two-party system the opposition always has an advantage after two terms and eight years — and is preparing to move into the governor’s mansion.

Nationally, Republicans have been devastated after losing the popular vote in six of the last seven presidential elections.

Clinton has spent her first two years governing to the left of President Barack Obama. Backing her up has been the solid left-wing majority on the U.S. Supreme Court.

With the 2020 presidential campaign in focus, Republicans are resolved not to repeat the debacle of 2016, when more than a dozen credible candidates destroyed the party’s chances.

Schuette, who has balanced the competing interests of the establishment with the party’s vocal right-wing base over his 36 years in this or that office, seizes the opportunity and makes a run for 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

While predecessor Snyder hated the campaign side of governing, Schuette lives, sleeps, and breathes politics. He relishes life on the trail, including the rubber-chicken dinners of local Republican gatherings in traditional early voting states.

His mastery of all things politics, including as attorney general when he cultivated relationships with other GOP state attorneys general (many of whom are also now governors) in the endless lawsuits against first the Obama administration and now the Clinton administration, has solidified his street cred with the militant right that propelled the anti-establishment outsiders of 2016.

Of course, four years is an eternity in politics.

Clinton’s election is hardly a forgone conclusion. A Republican could still win, thereby blocking Schuette’s path to the White House regardless of whether he becomes governor.

Still, Schuette, being the political animal that he is, knows that the governorship of Michigan would put him one step closer to fulfilling the dream he’s had since his high school days in Midland.

Dennis Lennox is a freelance columnist.

Twitter: @dennislennox