April 28, 2015 — Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder’s (R) last-minute appearance at the Republican Jewish Coalition meeting in Las Vegas this weekend accomplished several goals.
First, considering the mixed messages emanating from several meeting attenders and the governor’s spokespeople as to whether or not he has decided to enter the presidential race, Snyder has managed to make himself, at least in the short-term, part of the presidential conversation.
Second, he clearly scored political points with the group when telling of his “Michigan Story,” a recitation of his record since becoming governor of the economically troubled state in 2011 that included his handling of the Detroit financial collapse.
Third, just before the meeting he formed a federal PAC entitled “Making Government Accountable: The Michigan Story,” his version of the type of entity presidential candidates create to pay for the extensive travel required of national contenders and for purposes of self-promotion.
Fourth, he was able to meet and become acquainted with key Republican Super PAC donors such as Las Vegas Sands, Inc. president and CEO Sheldon Adelson, who is one of the largest of all GOP/conservative big money men.
Though former Sen. Norm Coleman (R-MN) said publicly after the meeting that he believes Snyder is running for president the governor himself was more non-committal and guarded in his comments, reiterating that he is “just watching what is happening.”
Curiously, Snyder further said he must see the results of his Michigan tax referendum vote, scheduled for May 5, which will raise $1.2 billion in gasoline, sales and use taxes ostensibly for roads and infrastructure, before deciding whether to embark upon a national campaign.
Gov. Snyder is unlikely to evolve into a top contender for the Republican nomination. While coming from zero in the 2010 GOP gubernatorial polls -– Snyder had never before even run for public office –- to first winning the Republican primary, and then the general election, the current state chief executive proves he knows how to campaign. Yet, the type of voter profile that he was able to convince in his two gubernatorial efforts is generally not found in great numbers in national GOP nomination contests.
On the other hand, while generally receiving relatively good job approval ratings his 2014 re-election margin was not as strong as many expected. He defeated former Rep. Mark Schauer (D-MI-7), who was generally thought of as a weak candidate, 51-47 percent (he won 58-40 percent in 2010), an underwhelming total in what proved to be a major Republican landslide year.
Though his economic reforms have been impressive, and most will agree his handling of the Detroit bankruptcy was prudent, he is not likely to engender much support with the base Republican primary voter or caucus attender. The fact that he wants to ensure his new revenue package passes before getting into the national campaign makes one scratch their heads as to why he thinks shepherding through a major tax increase is going to strike a chord with the conservative regular primary voters in New Hampshire and South Carolina, and possibly the even more rightward caucus participants in Iowa and Nevada.
His prospective entrance into the race, however, does make sense from at least one perspective. If he were at least successful in gathering delegates from Michigan and other Great Lakes States, he would have a small stake with which to become relevant at the Republican National Convention, should the conclave convene with no candidate having secured a majority of committed delegates.
With maybe as many as 20 individuals entering the race, and with what will likely be a record number of states invoking a proportional delegate allocation system, it becomes quite difficult for any candidate in what promises to be a closely bunched field to break away to the point that others will withdraw to support him, as has routinely happened in previous years.
There has not been an open or “brokered” national convention in what will be 96 years come July 2016, but chances are best in the modern political era for such to happen next year.
The more individuals, such as Gov. Snyder and South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, for example — Republican office holders who have a base at least in their critical home state primary but are not currently viewed as winning contenders –- the greater the chances of the race devolving into an open convention. Should this occur, anything could then happen.