Finley: Unity Schmunity. Snyder won't endorse Schuette yet
What will Rick Snyder do?
For one thing, the Republican governor did not go to Wednesday’s GOP unity event featuring Vice President Mike Pence in Grand Rapids, where the combatants in the party’s primary will be committed to setting aside lingering bitterness from the campaign and working together for victory in November.
And he is not endorsing Attorney General Bill Schuette, winner of the Republican gubernatorial primary Tuesday. At least not yet.
The governor’s office released a statement on his behalf Tuesday:
“I am committed to working with the next administration to maintain the new normal of balanced budgets, fiscal responsibility and important investments in education and infrastructure. We have come so far so fast, but now is not the time to be complacent or risk slipping backward.”
OK. But what about endorsing and working for Schuette, his party’s nominee?
“I don’t have a statement on that right now,” said spokesman Ari Adler. “At this time, his focus is on making sure the comeback continues.”
Asked if Schuette would be the best choice to assure that continuation of the Snyder agenda, Adler said, “Voters should look at which candidate would maintain the changes the governor has made in Michigan.”
That doesn’t even rise to the level of a tepid expression of support for Schuette.
The bad blood between the governor and attorney general is no secret. Schuette filed criminal charges against 15 public officials, including members of the Snyder administration in connection with the Flint water crisis, among them a cabinet member, Nick Lyon, director of health and human services, and chief medical executive Dr. Eden Wells.
The court proceedings have often appeared to be a trial of Snyder by proxy, and the governor has privately expressed his belief that Schuette brought the charges to separate himself from the Republican administration in advance of his gubernatorial run.
Lt. Gov. Brian Calley made those claims publicly during his primary fight with Schuette for the gubernatorial nomination.
Still, Schuette has said throughout the campaign that he has no beef with Snyder. When I asked him whether he would request an endorsement from the governor, he said he would, and that he expected Snyder to deliver one.
But those close to the governor say it may not come.
"That's a very tough call because of the recriminations that have been going on between the two for some time," says Dennis Muchmore, Snyder's former chief of staff. "It would be in the best interest of the Republican Party for them to find common ground, but I just don't know if they can span that gulf."
Earlier in the campaign, sources inside the Snyder administration hinted that if Schuette became the nominee, the governor would consider endorsing Gretchen Whitmer, who won Tuesday's Democratic primary.
Snyder Wednesday called those reports inaccurate rumors.
But not endorsing Schuette is nearly as harmful as backing his opponent. Democrats would surely use the governor's lack of public support for the GOP ticket to pull away the independents and moderate Republicans who form the core of Snyder's base.
And it would be unprecedented in modern Michigan politics for a sitting governor not to work on behalf of his party's choice to succeed him, if for no other reason than to assure the preservation of his legacy.
Whitmer was careful during her campaign not to attack Snyder personally. Rather, she's made much of her work with the governor to expand Medicaid in Michigan.
Snyder always has been selective in his political engagement. His Relentless Positive Action PAC has supported several candidates, but it has not served as a blanket funding tool for Republicans.
I expect Snyder will ultimately make some sort of endorsement of Schuette, but I doubt it will come with either help on the campaign trail or fundraising.
How much that hurts Schuette is unclear. Snyder's approval numbers have never fully recovered from the Flint debacle. And the governor is not in good standing with President Donald Trump, whose endorsement Schuette trumpeted during the primary campaign.
But this is an unusual twist that speaks loudly to the breaks in Michigan's Republican Party in what promises to be a tough election year for the GOP.
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