Jennifer Granholm has been out of Michigan's gubernatorial office for over seven years. But, this year, her name is back in the spotlight.
With Republicans running the show in Lansing for the past eight years, it has been especially hard for GOP gubernatorial candidates to run on the basis of change. This election is expected to be a referendum on Donald Trump and the way Republicans are managing things in Washington D.C., or the legacy of Rick Snyder.
But, Bill Schuette wants it to be about Granholm and her "legacy of failure still impeding Michigan's growth." Despite not being on the ballot in a dozen years, Bill Schuette sees Granholm as an effective foil, and is betting voter's memories go back far enough to remember Granholm as governor.
Schuette is trying to associate Granholm with Gretchen Whitmer, the Democrat running for governor, and Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley, his rival in the GOP primary. Calley worked with Granholm on a business tax overhaul while he was state Rep, so this association is fair game. But only fair game to the extent that any one politician can be charged with Michigan's back-to-back recessions.
It's worth pointing out that Michigan's "lost decade" began before Granholm took office, while Republican John Engler was still governor, and while Bill Schuette was a state senator in the Republican majority that spent down the state's "rainy day" savings.
The economic recovery began while Jennifer Granholm was still governor, and at least-in-part due to her championing the auto company bailout over Republican objections. The Granholm years were not pretty, she inherited a recession, and then, just when things were starting to look up, the collapse of the manufacturing sector plunged the nation in the Great Recession.
But, this tactic of Schuette’s, of reminding voters of Granholm, might actually give Team Granholm a unique opportunity to re-address her difficult years in Lansing. The Granholm administration has taken notice, and is expected to give some pushback.
The Great Recession was tough, and politicians who served during that time have taken a beating. Unlike presidents and congressional leaders, political scholars typically don't re-visit the legacies and reputation of state officials like governors.
It may work for Bill Schuette to make Jennifer Granholm a campaign issue and de-facto opponent, but he is also giving Team Granholm the opportunity to relitigate her legacy.