Republican Party loyalists have become increasingly irritated – perhaps even infuriated – by term-limited Gov. Rick Snyder’s refusal to lift a finger for his potential successor, state Attorney General Bill Schuette, who easily won the August primary election.
That boiling undercurrent became apparent over the past few days in two Detroit News columns written by staunch conservatives who relayed the concerns of GOP strategists who worry that Snyder’s lack of an endorsement for Schuette, his refusal to play ball at this late stage in the game, could have long-term consequences for the party.
The Democrats seem to be on the verge of winning the governorship, attorney general, secretary of state and, perhaps, the state House. That would leave only the state Senate as a GOP bastion after the Republicans have controlled every facet of state government over the past eight years.
An opinion piece by Detroit News editorial page editor Nolan Finley carried a headline that asserted Snyder is “obliged” to protect his legacy by helping Schuette win in November. Without Schuette on duty, Finley asserted, all of Snyder’s pro-business accomplishments would be quickly undone by Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gretchen Whitmer.
Finley portrayed the outgoing governor as a bit of a drama queen who is pouting after his choice of successors, Lt. Gov. Brian Calley, lost badly to Schuette in the primary. The split between the governor and the AG is partly based on Schuette’s high-profile announcement in June 2017 of felony charges targeting two Snyder administration officials. Those indictments were related to Legionnaire’s deaths at the height of the Flint water crisis, though Schuette brought charges against some 15 state and local officials overall.
Finley offers this:
The animus Snyder feels toward Schuette apparently outweighs his self-interest in preserving the hard-won gains that have made Michigan stronger during his 8-year tenure. Snyder has not endorsed Schuette, and is not working on his behalf, even though the Republican nominee says he will continue pressing the Snyder “comeback agenda” if elected.
… Snyder feels he was a proxy target of Schuette’s investigation of the Flint water crisis, which led to the indictment of two senior members of his administration.
Snyder a ‘sore loser’
A Detroit News guest column by Dennis Lennox, a GOP political consultant and commentator, went further, saying it’s “long past time for the governor to stop acting like a sore loser.”
Missing from the Finley and Lennox commentaries is the fact that GOP control over the state Senate, which has continued unabated for 35 years and has reached a supermajority margin, will serve its role as a roadblock to liberal policies in Lansing as it has for more than a generation, regardless of election outcomes in November.
Here is Lennox’s view:
If Snyder doesn’t put aside his deep differences with Schuette, which have more to do with style and personality than substantive policy, then Whitmer is going to succeed him and immediately begin work to undo everything Snyder and majority Republicans have done.
… The Republican Party looks leaderless. GOP chairman Ron Weiser is missing-in-action, or at least that is the perception. Yes, his name is quoted in press releases but the prolific fundraiser isn’t seen on the frontlines.
At this point, it’s important to remember that that Whitmer faced tough intraparty treatment in her Democratic primary, perhaps as rough as Schuette endured, including a claim that she was guilty of money laundering — a felony. But both nominees won their respective primaries by nearly identical margins in multi-candidate fields, each garnering a bit more than 50 percent of the vote.
In addition, Schuette was far more established as a strong, relatively well-known candidate heading into Election Day on Aug. 7 than Whitmer, the former Senate Minority Leader who has been out of office for four years. Yet, Republicans complain that Calley turned the AG into a wounded gubernatorial candidate coming out of the primary whereas Whitmer somehow seems stronger than ever after her Democratic detractors coalesced around her.
The true complaint within the GOP is not about damage but rather that Snyder and Calley have ignored Schuette since he won the nomination. “I’m staying out of politics. I’m governing,” Snyder said in August, as his final months are devoted mostly to environmental causes. A nerdy governor who has spent eight years working as a problem-solver is not willing to bite his tongue and hit the campaign trail for a highly partisan Republican whom he dislikes.
Trump style vs. Snyder style
I would suggest that the chasm between the outgoing governor and his potential successor is about moderate, modest politics vs. Trump-style, grandstanding politics, more than anything else. Schuette says he will carry on with the Snyder agenda though for eight years as AG he veered to the right as a champion of tea party-style Republicans and their prime beefs, such as same-sex marriage, LGBT rights, Medicaid expansion and the upcoming ballot proposal to ban partisan gerrymandering of election districts.
Schuette is not a GOP nominee in the mold of Snyder. And Snyder obviously knows that. The governor may not be a team player at this point but — think about it — from the time he emerged as an obscure first-time candidate in 2009, he was never a product of the Republican farm team.
In sports parlance, he was akin to a walk-on quarterback. As an outsider, he showed up uninvited and believed that he could contribute to the cause.
He won his position and accomplished much of his agenda. And now he’s ready to move on.