Following his reelection and the success of several of his state economic reforms, several national media outlets have floated Republican Gov. Rick Snyder as a contender in a crowded field of potential GOP presidential candidates.
Snyder sparked national media attention after he visited Washington, D.C. in early December to accept Governing Magazine’s award for Public Official of the Year. During the trip, he said he hoped to visit more places around the country to tell the story of Michigan’s recovery.
However, the governor has remained noncommittal, telling reporters at the U.S.-China Automotive Forum on Sunday he thought experience running a state would make for an ideal presidential candidate, but he declined to say whether or not he would consider running for the position.
Michigan’s first lady Sue Snyder has been less reserved. During the annual joint interview with her husband on Michigan Public TV, she said she would not want Snyder to run for president nor seek the vice presidency.
Snyder’s office did not return several requests for comment on the prospect of his 2016 candidacy.
In regard to Snyder’s overall chance of attaining the presidency, Political Science Prof. Vincent Hutchings said the candidacy might not be realistic.
“This is not a reflection on Snyder, but it takes a lot of money to make a viable run for the White House,” he said.
Hutchings also noted that several high-profile Republicans such as Ted Cruz, Jeb Bush, Rand Paul and possibly Marco Rubio have already established themselves as candidates in the race and locked up key donors. The 2012 Republican candidate Mitt Romney also stated his intention to run to a group of donors last week.
He said he felt it was already too late for Snyder to launch a successful campaign, and since Snyder has not been actively seeking donors, he most likely will not run.
Nonetheless, as the country gears up for the 2016 race, several aspects of the governor’s record have received prominent attention. Snyder won reelection in 2014, carrying 51 percent of the vote in what was expected to be a close race against his Democratic counterpart Mark Schauer.
As governor, Snyder also passed a right-to-work bill that allows employees to retain their jobs without needing to join a union, a policy few other GOP governors have been able to accomplish.
However, since Republicans in Congress have attempted to dismantle portions of the health care reform laws passed under the Obama administration, Snyder’s policy record could also become a source of scrutiny.
Richard Hirth, professor of health management and policy at the University, said Snyder might face opposition in a Republican primary based on his administration’s Healthy Michigan Plan. The plan, which expanded Michigan’s Medicaid program, has been touted as an early success, enrolling over 400,000 low-income Michiganders since April, but also places Snyder in contrast to the prevailing GOP standpoint on highly contested federal healthcare legislation such as the Affordable Care Act.
“Since he was so instrumental in the Healthy Michigan plan, it will be hard for him to run completely away from it,” Hirth said. “He can still oppose the (federal) health care law broadly as a matter of principle to appeal to voters who oppose the law.”
After Romney lost the 2012 presidential election, Hirth said the GOP would be less likely to support a candidate such as Snyder, who has arguably taken a more moderate approach to health care reform. As governor of Massachusetts, Romney pioneered a plan with similar facets as the ACA.
However, if Snyder made it to a general election, Hirth said he may be able to win some level of bipartisan support.
When the Healthy Michigan Plan passed in December 2013, Snyder requested federal waivers that allowed the state to receive federal funding for the plan while avoiding adoption of certain requirements under the ACA. However, Hirth was skeptical Republicans would accept a candidate who took the middle-ground approach to health reform.
“I don’t think I’d want to be him making that argument in most Republican primaries,” he said. “If he somehow got through the primaries, I think he could play that as a responsible, middle-ground approach.”
Statement Editor Ian Dillingham contributed to this report.