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A governor who spends two terms in office putting in place transformative reforms is naturally protective of that legacy.

But will Gov. Rick Snyder’s desire to preserve what he’s built in Michigan be strong enough for him to endorse Bill Schuette should the attorney general win the Republican gubernatorial nomination?

That’s a choice the governor may face entering a 2018 campaign season in which Schuette is the solid front-runner on the GOP side of the ticket.

Snyder and Schuette have never been close.

While both play down their strained personal relationship, it’s an open secret that Snyder is furious with Schuette for how he is pursuing the criminal case against Health and Human Services Director Nick Lyon.

Lyon is charged with manslaughter for failing to warn the public about an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease that may have been linked to the tainted Flint water.

As prosecuted by Schuette’s hired gun, Todd Flood, the case against Lyon has become a proxy trial of Rick Snyder.

Witnesses have been called to present testimony contradicting the governor’s account of when he was notified of the water crisis, and how much information he was given about the possible connection to the Legionnaires’ cases, which resulted in 12 deaths.

No witnesses have been brought to the stand to corroborate Snyder’s account.

The governor feels he is being bushwhacked for the sake of Schuette’s political ambitions. Republicans will have to answer for Flint in next year’s campaigning, and it benefits Schuette to build a wall between himself and the governor.

But the wall may not come down for the general election season. Even politics may not be enough to make cozy such estranged bedfellows.

Snyder has never considered himself a politician, and has been selective in his engagement on behalf of Republican candidates. Last year, he refused to endorse Donald Trump, the GOP presidential nominee.

It would surprise no one if he sits out the gubernatorial race as well if the attorney general is the nominee. Still, Schuette says he will court the governor’s blessing.

“I absolutely will ask for his endorsement, and I expect to get it,” Schuette says, noting that he and Snyder were cordial during the Republican Governors Association meetings in Austin, which both attended last week. “This is about policies that keep this state moving forward. If the Democrats win, we’re doomed.”

Snyder doesn’t want his policy infrastructure dismantled, obviously. But some close to him suggest the governor, with no future political plans, could back a pro-business Democrat should one join the governor’s race.

Otherwise, the bet is the governor will again stay silent rather than actively work for Schuette’s election.

That might not be fatal to Schuette’s hopes. Since Flint, the governor’s political clout is greatly diminished.

Still, Democrats would surely use any hesitancy by Snyder as a hammer against the GOP hopeful.

In the end, Snyder may feel enough pressure from those Republicans who backed him as governor to place his name behind the GOP nominee, even if it’s Schuette.

But those words of support would be hard for Snyder to choke out.

nfinley@detroitnews.com

Catch The Nolan Finley Show weekdays 7-9 a.m. on 910 AM Superstation.

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