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Commentary

The Snyder campaign

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There’s suddenly a new flurry of rumors that Governor Rick Snyder is inching towards making a run for President. There is some evidence that there’s something to this. The governor, or his supporters, are creating a new non-profit fund, “Making Government Accountable” to pay for his jaunts around the country.

He is ostensibly doing this to help tell the story of Michigan’s comeback across the nation, perhaps to drum up more business for the state. But it could be that he’s trying to sell himself as well. Anonymous sources say he is thinking about running, though Snyder himself is coyly denying it, saying things like, “I’ve got a full plate right now, and I am focused on being governor.”

And while he does plan to travel a lot, he has no plans to join the mob of more open presidential candidates in early caucus and primary states like Iowa and New Hampshire.

So what’s really going on here? Three months ago I said that I didn’t think Snyder would run and that he would not be an especially strong candidate if he did – and I still think that.

But he clearly wants something, and wants to be noticed. My guess is that he is primarily positioning himself as a vice-presidential candidate, or possibly a contender for a slot in a potential Republican president’s cabinet. He can’t run for governor again.

Defeating Senator Debbie Stabenow if she runs for reelection during his last year in office would be difficult at best. There is, however, one very remote chance Rick Snyder might have to be the presidential nominee, and here’s what it is.

What if the Republicans get to their national convention in Cleveland next July and no candidate has a majority of the more than two thousand delegates? Let’s say when they call the roll of states, Jeb Bush ends up with 40 percent of them, Scott Walker has 30 percent, and Ted Cruz, Rand Paul and a smattering of others have the rest.

That would mean another ballot, or ballots, and what might ultimately be a brokered convention, with deals made and a compromise candidate coming out of nowhere.

That hasn’t happened in more than sixty years, but it used to happen all the time. Sometimes candidates have been nominated who weren’t on anyone’s radar screen when the convention started – Wendell Willkie, for example, after six ballots in 1940.

This hasn’t happened lately because things tend to get settled quickly after the early primaries and the amount of money needed. People soon stop giving to the losers. Usually, a winner emerges by March.

But something is different this year. For the first time since 1960, this contest starts without a clear Republican front-runner.  It is just barely possible that a deadlocked convention could turn to an uncontroversial Midwestern governor as a compromise choice.

However, that’s a long shot indeed. Snyder’s got another problem. If the polls are right, two weeks from today Michigan voters are going to decisively reject his plea to raise their taxes to fix our disgraceful roads. That won’t help Snyder sell either himself as a leader, or this state.

But for now, we’ll just have to wait and see.

Jack Lessenberry is Michigan Radio's political analyst. Views expressed in his essays are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of Michigan Radio, its management or the station licensee, The University of Michigan.

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