Snyder Q&A: Focus is Michigan, not Trump

Gov. Rick Snyder made a brief appearance in Cleveland Thursday, hosting a lunch for the Michigan delegation at the Cleveland Public Library.

In an exclusive interview, Detroit News Editorial Page Editor Nolan Finley and Deputy Editorial Page Editor Ingrid Jacques asked the governor about his absence from the Republican National Convention this week and his thoughts on Donald Trump.

We noticed you didn’t mention Donald Trump in your talk. Why’d you leave him out?

I wouldn’t read anything into my non-comments other than I’m focusing on Michigan. I’m the governor of Michigan so the races I’m most concerned about are the races in the state House.

You’ve said you’re close to Gov. Mike Pence. Does that make you more likely to support the Republican ticket?

It’s not a support or nonsupport question; it’s a participation and priority question. The presidential race is not on my list of races.

Do you feel any obligation to help elect a Republican president or help deliver Michigan, a key state, to the Republican Party?

My premise is that my first responsibility is making sure the state of Michigan is working in the best way possible, and that’s with the (state) House races.

You did back Romney four years ago.

I was at events with him.

Are you going to play the same role with Donald Trump?

I wouldn’t assume that at this point. Right now I’m staying focused on the House races. I’ve been to lots of events, Lincoln Day events and fundraisers.

Are you worried that if there is a lack of enthusiasm for Trump that it will have a negative impact on those House races?

Again, you hope people are looking through the whole ticket. As to individual candidates running and making their selection that way. That’s actually why some of the legislation we did pass so that there isn’t straight ticket voting in Michigan, subject to legal review, is important.

When you look at the impact a poor performance by Trump would have on elections in this state, are you worried at all?

I wouldn’t speculate about that at this point. I mean, how many people thought Donald Trump would be the nominee? I wouldn’t necessarily want to draw that conclusion for the presidential race, so we’ll see how it plays out. But I’m going to spend my time on the House races. And House races should be interesting — very grass roots.

We’ve got a great track record to run on. Get out the track record of success and don’t we want to keep going and keep that continuing? It’s exciting. I mean 4.6 percent unemployment and 466,000 private sector jobs? Compare that to Ohio or Indiana.

Were you asked to participate in the convention?

I don’t believe I got a request.

Is it a bit unusual for a Republican governor to stay away from the convention? You’re among several Republican governors who didn’t come here?

I’m not a delegate. That was a good decision. It was highly competitive. Demand for people to be delegates went through the roof. It was incredible how many people wanted to be a delegate. As governor I can come to the convention and show up and have a nice event and thank people.

The Bushes aren’t here, John McCain, Mitt Romney, a lot of folks who fit your Republican profile aren’t here. What do you read into that? Is this a divided party?

There is some division in the party. You can find that in other races in the past.

I’m taking a more philosophical position as a governor. You hired me to be governor of Michigan. You didn’t hire me to be the handicapper for the presidential race. I’m doing the best job I can to make our state as successful as possible.

When you look at the Republican Party, it’s going quite well at the state level, with governorships and legislatures. Why isn’t that translating into better performance in the presidential races?

It’s the whole governing philosophy in Washington. If you look at governors, the main theme is governors get things done, where in Washington, what has gotten done? Not much. The public perspective is not much gets done and that’s one of the reasons you found support for an outsider. There’s a lot of angry people out there in both parties over Washington in particular. And my answer to that is look at Michigan. We’ve proven that anger and being mad and blame doesn’t solve the problem. You need leadership.

Where does the fault lie in Washington for things not getting done?

I view it as a broader political culture questions, not one party or another. The whole system is at fault. We as Americans have let this happen and we need to be responsible for swinging it back. Like we had the lost decade in Michigan. We did it to ourselves but we’ve brought it back and made it the comeback state.

Will Donald Trump make it better or worse if he wins?

I’m not going to comment on that. I’m going to stay in my lane.