Governor Snyder tries to convince Michiganders he's worth their vote

Jan 17, 2014

Think for a minute and tell me what you remember about the governor’s state of the state speech last year.

Don’t feel bad. I don’t remember much either, and I write about these things for a living.

Actually I do remember that last year Snyder proposed spending $1.2 billion on the roads to keep them from falling apart.

... last year Snyder proposed spending $1.2 billion on the roads to keep them from falling apart. The Legislature did nothing.

The Legislature did nothing.

Three years ago, the governor did make the stunning announcement that he wanted a new international bridge over the Detroit River. He found a way to make it happen, but the project is being held up by Congress, which needs to find a quarter of a billion dollars for a new customs plaza.

It’s always something.

This year, the governor gave an “I’m running for reelection” speech.

It included something for everyone. He called for the Legislature to support an amendment to the U.S.Constitution requiring a balanced budget except in an emergency. He called for tax relief for lower-and middle income workers. He wants seniors protected from scams, and he wants money to fight the Asian long-horned beetle.

Actually, after the speech, Mark Schauer, the Democrat running against him, complained that Snyder spent more time talking about the beetle than about education.

My guess is that it may be easier to get our lawmakers to cough up money for the beetles than for schools.

I’m not sure that is true, but the speech did cause me to learn about these beetles, an invasive species that kills living trees. My guess is that it may be easier to get our lawmakers to cough up money for the beetles than for schools.

But I don’t expect this speech to go down in history, or even to be remembered in March. What’s happening is that the governor is setting the table for his drive for reelection.

Ronald Reagan defined perfectly what this is all about.

Thirty-four years ago, he was challenging Jimmy Carter, who was the incumbent president. During their only televised debate, Reagan told voters, “It might be well if you asked yourself, are you better off now than you were four years ago?”

Most weren’t, and he won.

Last night was Snyder’s first shot at attempting to convince Michiganders that they are in fact better off now.

He won’t succeed with everybody.

There are people on pensions or with unions who he lost long ago. But the “are you better off question” is not the only factor. Voters also have to be convinced there is a good chance they would be better off under the other guy.

Michigan voters weren’t all that thrilled with Jennifer Granholm when she ran for reelection in 2006.  But her opponent, Dick DeVos, inspired little faith, and she won by a landslide.

Today, most Michigan voters don’t know who Mark Schauer is.

He needs to start convincing them he looks like a governor. Perhaps the most unusual thing about last night’s speech is that the governor never mentioned the one thing everyone was talking about: His idea for the state to pitch in more than $300 million to help save the DIA.

Sounds exciting, but this would require lawmakers who refuse to spend money to fix our roads to send a good chunk of it to the City of Detroit.

What do you really think the odds are of that?