Governor Rick Snyder says he’s staying out of the presidential race this year, but he’s not staying out of politics.
This past week, Snyder’s political operation picked more than a dozen Republicans to support in state races.
“I’m just staying out of the presidential race just like I have in the past because I’m focusing on the state House and the Supreme Court of Michigan races. As governor of Michigan, I view that as my priority,” Snyder told reporters last week in Cleveland where he met with Republican delegates.
The governor, however, stayed away from the floor of the GOP convention, and kept his distance from Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.
And, fact check: Rick Snyder has not, actually, stayed out of presidential politics in the past. In the last cycle, he endorsed - and campaigned for - Mitt Romney. But it is true that this year, Snyder made a political decision to remain out of presidential politics (except to say he would prefer to see a governor or former governor nominated), while also making a political decision to engage in Michigan politics.
Our famously, occasionally apolitical governor is trying to protect his state Supreme Court appointments and figures he’s better off with a Republican majority in the state House. So, he flipped on the money switch of his Relentless Positive Action Political Action Committee (RPA PAC), and donated to more than a dozen Republicans running in state House races.
Snyder created the RPA PAC last fall to try and get more like-minded Republicans elected to the state Legislature. But, also to collect some chits and build some loyalty in a state House that’s not always been on board with his plans when it’s come to things like infrastructure, road funding, and the Detroit schools rescue.
These first donations are going to 15 House Republicans, many facing primary challenges. Snyder says more endorsements and donations could be in the works. But, in this first round, Snyder and the RPA PAC also made a point of donating to the two GOP lawmakers who want to be the next House Speaker (presuming Republicans keeps their majority in the next session).
This says, Rick Snyder, that politician who famously declared that he’s not a politics-as-usual politician, is using that most standard of political tools - money - to make friends and influence events.
Now, the money’s nice and no doubt appreciated by these GOP candidates. But here’s another question: Does the Snyder endorsement these days carry any weight, and is it welcome?
If the polls are to be believed, Rick Snyder is not exactly popular with voters right now. Democrats have already used the Snyder endorsement against Republicans on the RPA PAC’s list, and will no doubt continue to do so.
But, really, what choice does Snyder have?
The answer is, not much. These contributions signal a continuation in Snyder’s on-the-job evolution.
He may or may not have much of a political future, but he’s still governor for another two and a half years. If he’s going to change the narrative on the successes and failures of his administration, and carry out his agenda through the end of 2018, he’s got to make allies.
It’s a situation that calls for politics as usual.