Make room for Rick Snyder in the GOP primary field... possibly

There have been rumors making the rounds on and off for a while now about the possibility that Michigan Governor Rick Snyder was toying with the idea of a presidential bid. That prospect moved out of the vague rumor category and into the slightly less vague realm this week when Snyder showed up to address a group of influential Jewish donor and voters, making a pitch based on his governmental credentials and allegedly telling some attendees that he was getting into the race. (From the Guardian)

Michigan governor Rick Snyder may be the newest GOP candidate for the White House. Snyder mingled with donors at a meeting of the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) in Las Vegas on Friday and told at least one attendee that he was a candidate.

On Saturday morning, the former Minnesota senator Norm Coleman told reporters: “I met with Rick Snyder yesterday. He’s running. He’s running.”

In a talk with the RJC board, Snyder himself was not as explicit. Ari Fleischer, a board member and former spokesman for President George W Bush, told the Guardian: “[He] didn’t say to the board that he was running. He made a real strong presentation about his results and successes in Michigan.”

If this is happening I’ll be at least somewhat surprised. It’s not that there’s anything particularly disqualifying about Snyder, but he hasn’t exactly invested much effort into building a national brand before now. Mitt Romney supposedly had him on his short list for Veep in 2012, but that didn’t wind up going anywhere. He’s held on to his office in Michigan, but his 2014 reelection was razor thin compared to the healthy margin he racked up in his first run. Snyder has a rather unusual background for a politician, starting out as a corporate CPA before eventually becoming the President, COO and Chairman of the Board at tech giant Gateway. (Leading to his self promotion as a geek, including grabbing the Twitter handle of One Tough Nerd.)

Because he’s a Republican from Michigan, he tends to be lumped into the general category of moderates which won’t do him any favors in the primary, but his positions are not that far to the center in a number of areas. He’s been pretty solidly pro-life, while allowing for the usual exceptions, but signed bans on late term and partial birth abortions. He’s been seen as something of a union buster and pushed Michigan toward a Right to Work stance, as well as using tough love to try to restructure some of his state’s failing cities.

Still, I have to wonder what sort of space Snyder can carve out for himself in this crowded field. With a few exceptions, he’s sort of a duplicate of Scott Walker and would seem to be competing for the same donors and ideological turf. He’s clearly got the “Washington outsider” credentials nailed down, but he’s not the only one who will be playing that card in this field. His biggest hurdle might just be the name recognition issue. I can’t find a single, reputable national poll where he’s even been mentioned as a possibility this year and I’m not sure how many voters around the rest of the nation could tell you who he is. If Snyder was seriously looking at a run for 2016 it seems to me that he’d have needed to be out there chasing the media spotlight and setting up an exploratory committee long before this. There’s already a significant number of big name horses lining up at the gate and the Governor may have waited too long at this point.