In this week's edition of It's Just Politics, Rick Pluta and I take a look at the politics of taking credit for a good economy. Governor Snyder says Michigan's economy is improving but that's not the story that Mitt Romney wants to tell.
Zoe Clark: Rick, I have a great idea for this week's show!
Rick Pluta: Actually, Zoe, I think maybe it was someone else’s idea first.
Mitt Romney: “So, I’ll take a lot of credit...”
RP: That’s our cheap setup for the fact that Mitt Romney paid a visit to Michigan this week.
ZC: Indeed, he campaigned this week at Lansing Community College.
RP: Prior to hitting the ground here in Lansing, Romney gave an interview with an Ohio TV station, where he said President Obama really followed his plan - the Romney plan - for the bailout of the auto industry.
ZC: And, so, there’s this disconnect. Was the bailout bad? Or, wasn’t it? Governor Rick Snyder – a Romney supporter -- says it’s time to just stop talking about it.
Rick Snyder: “I think too much time is spent on the whole bailout question. It worked, it's done, it's over with. There's other ways it probably could have been done. But, the point is it was successful."
RP: So, move on, folks. There’s nothing more to see here. Let’s change the subject. And this speaks to the sometimes awkward dance between governors and presidential candidates -- when they are from the same political party. Rick Snyder is telling people things are looking up.
Snyder: “Now, if you look at where we're at, we’re the comeback state in the United States today.”
RP: The “comeback state,” outpacing the nation in job creation, manufacturing on the rise. And Mitt Romney?
Romney: “These last few years have been hard on the people in Lansing and frankly they've been hard on the people of America. “
ZC: Not hearing that relentless positivity there.
RP: This guy’s harshin’ my mellow.
ZC: Rick Snyder does say there’s more work to be done. That Washington needs a healthy dose of what’s working in Michigan. But that’s not Romney’s message.
RP: Right. Where Rick Snyder says life is good and getting better, Mitt Romney says you’re worse off than you might have been. It’s not good, and whatever might be good is going to head south without some change.
ZC: This dichotomy is not new. In the 1990s, the economy was booming John Engler was the Republican governor of Michigan, Bill Clinton, the Democratic president. When it came to that success…
RP: Credit for a good economy wasn’t a problem for Governor Jennifer Granholm. With George W.Bush in the White House, the economy was bad and it was a battle of blame. And it became mutually assured political destruction - we saw that by the time the time both of them office - Bush in 2009, Granholm on January first of 2011 - they were both pretty unpopular.
ZC: That speaks to a few things, but one of them is people seeking office will cast a lot of blame for the bad, lay claim to the good, but there are really a lot of things outside their control that will decide the state of the economy and the state of their popularity.
RP: But that does not mean they won’t pretend they’re managing events. Unless it’s in their interest do otherwise.
ZC: So Rick, does Romney’s visit mean Michigan’s in play this year? This state has not voted for a Republican for president since George H.W. Bush in 1988.
RP: George Herbert Walker Bush.
ZC: That's the one.
RP: Well, Michigan does elect plenty of Republicans statewide – Governor Snyder, Attorney General Bill Schuette, Secretary of State Ruth Johnson, they’re all Republicans. But Michigan still seems to be in that second tier of states that are potentially competitive, but not yet battlegrounds. So, Republicans will be eyeing Michigan to see if they can make it a battleground. If they can take Michigan, a lot of people say that’s game over. But failing that even, because Michigan is competitive, they are hoping to at least force President Obama to spend time and money here that might otherwise be spent in Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Colorado…
ZC: But there does seem to be a fight over "the Michigan story".
RP: Yes. President Obama has a one-minute ad airing in nine states – Michigan is not one of them. But the recovery of the domestic auto industry is a big part of that message.
Obama political advertisement: “...and today our audio industry is back – firing on all cylinders….”
RP: The President seems to like to come to Michigan so he can tell that story – the manufacturing rebound, the advanced battery industry, the improving jobless rate – to the rest of the country.
ZC: Sounds a little like a certain nerdy governor that we know.
RP: Doesn’t it? And by the way, you will never hear Rick Snyder bash Obama. He may kick some dirt on Washington’s shoes. But he never directly criticizes the president. At the Lansing visit this week, the job of Obama attacking fell squarely on Mitt Romney.