Finley: Can Snyder squeeze onto GOP track?

Nolan Finley
The Detroit News

As Gov. Rick Snyder contemplates merging into a jammed GOP presidential race, it's tough to see what lane he'd fill that isn't already occupied.

Snyder, as a standalone candidate, brings a compelling message.

His solutions-based, relentlessly positive style of governing has produced results in Michigan, turning around a state that had been hopelessly mired in recession for a decade before he arrived. He lays claim to a middle-of-the road bipartisanship, and yet still has solid conservative credentials.

Snyder is principled without being an ideologue. Americans tired of bombastic candidates might find Snyder's modest, low-key style refreshing. His transparency, personal integrity and competence would match up nicely against Hillary Clinton in a fall campaign.

But there are nearly two dozen Republicans already lined up in front of him. And they've got every niche covered.

What can Snyder offer that isn't already on this GOP buffet table?

He's right that after eight years of amateurish management of the federal government, America will need a governor, a skilled executive, to straighten out the mess. That's the exact role he played in succeeding Jennifer Granholm.

Still, this field is not wanting for present and former governors. From Jeb Bush (Florida) to Rick Perry (Texas) to Scott Walker (Wisconsin) to John Kasich (Ohio) to Bobby Jindal (Louisiana) to Chris Christie (New Jersey), it's tough to think of a Republican governor not looking at the race.

Snyder can claim appeal to moderates and independents, but so can Kasich and Bush.

He can boast of Michigan's steady job and economic growth, but it doesn't nearly match Perry's record in Texas. Walker trounces him on the right, and his name recognition is a fraction of Christie's.

He brings no special ethnic appeal, the way that Jindal and Dr. Ben Carson might.

In a field filled with white males, he's white and male. And his business credentials are outdated compared to Silicon Valley's Carly Fiorina.

Snyder's lack of foreign policy background is a disadvantage against the many U.S. senators in the race.

He doesn't light up a crowd with his oratory the way Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz do, nor does he have their zest for the campaign trail.

On a debate stage packed with such loud, familiar voices, Snyder's quiet competence might not be heard. That's if he even gets on the stage. The GOP will have to limit participants based on their standing in the polls. So Snyder's strategy of waiting a few more months before making a decision may not give him the time to reach the upper tiers.

Snyder may be angling for the second spot on the ticket. But so are a lot of other people. He has the advantage of coming from a key battleground state, but there's no guarantee he can deliver it. He won re-election against a weak opponent by just 4 percentage points, while Kasich was returned in Ohio by a 31-point margin.

I believe Rick Snyder would make a fine president. I just don't see how he squeezes into this traffic jam.


Follow Nolan Finley on Twitter at @nolanfinleydn, and watch him at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays on "MiWeek" on Detroit Public TV, Channel 56.