So far, no sitting governors have yet jumped into the Republican presidential nomination sweepstakes, and their may be more than one might expect. Michigan governor Rick Snyder has begun the process of raising his national profile, launching a new 501(c)(4) to cover the cost of a new speaking tour. Snyder also held talks this week among advisers on the potential for a run — with an announcement as soon as three weeks from now, after special elections in the state:
Michigan Republican Gov. Rick Snyder, who has kept the door open to running for president but not taken active steps, had a meeting with top political advisers last week to discuss moving forward with a potential 2016 bid, sources familiar with the session told POLITICO.
The former Gateway Computers CEO has also formed a new 501(c)(4) to pay for political travel and to tout his success story in Michigan, which could include airing commercials beyond Michigan. It is called “Making Government Accountable.”
Some top Michigan GOP hands believe that the “one tough nerd” technocrat could jump into the race later this spring; others say privately that he’s just trying to raise his national profile and realized he would face long odds.
Snyder ad maker Fred Davis, who declined to comment on the meeting, said the governor is “pondering the decision.”
Long odds? Sure, but with a crowded field and no clear frontrunner at this early stage, that’s pretty much true of everyone. Snyder doesn’t have the national recognition that the three Senators already in the race have (and especially not Jeb Bush’s name recognition), but he’d also start well behind other governors like Scott Walker, Bobby Jindal, and Rick Perry (who’s out of office now) on that score too. That would account for his early stirring in the cycle; if he’s going to compete, he’d have to get in ahead of the gubernatorial candidates in order to make an impact. Even now, it might be too late, as Walker, Jindal, and Perry have been working the hustings for months, even while officially uncommitted.
Still, Snyder has a couple of things going for him. He’s still relatively young at 57, a decade younger than Hillary Clinton, if older than most of his competition in the GOP. Michigan would be a great state to flip against the Democrats in the Electoral College, and Snyder’s success in rescuing Detroit (for now) might be enough to make that happen with him on the GOP ticket. That kind of track record could boost the GOP across the Rust Belt, helping to win back Ohio and perhaps even threaten in Indiana. Walker and John Kasich would be the only other governors in the race who could compete in that regard.
Even his supposed drawback might be a boon in 2016. Snyder has cultivated the “tough nerd” persona, in part to make up for a significant lack of charisma on the stump. Having just suffered through eight years of charismatic incompetence, America might be ready to embrace uncharismatic super-competence, perhaps especially since the Democratic alternative appears to be uncharismatic incompetence. But that’s really a fall-back position for the GOP, since they have more charismatic options with their own track records of gubernatorial success who will enter the race later this spring or by early summer at the latest.
The entry of Snyder into the race would, at the very least, get the Michigan GOP and perhaps its independents more engaged in the national race. That would be a very good development for the Republican Party, and bad news for Democrats.
Update: Gov. Snyder’s team wrote me to clarify that their 501(c)(4) is not a PAC. I’ve corrected the headline and opening paragraph.