Snyder's not running (yet), but his ads are

Sep 25, 2013

Governor Rick Snyder has begun airing a sixty second commercial that, to anyone with an IQ exceeding that of a hamster, is clearly a campaign ad aimed at getting the voters to reelect him next year. It touts all the governor’s supposed accomplishments of the last three years, and hints what he wants to do in a new term.

Snyder says the message is: “simply put, we said it and we did it.”  Actually, the commercial is a shorter version of a five-minute video shown at last weekend’s Mackinac Island Republican conference. That version openly referred to “another four years” with Snyder and Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley in charge.

Standard campaign commercial fare. But there are two things odd about this. For one thing, it is highly unusual for any candidate to run such a commercial more than a year before the election. After all, this stuff is terribly expensive. When politicians do things like this, as a friend used to say, “it just goes to show you what God could have done if he had just had the money.’”

But here’s the really odd thing about all this. Snyder is pretending he is not yet running for reelection, and to an extent, the media are letting him get away with it. “I’m not an announced candidate,“ the governor told reporters yesterday. “I’m happy being governor. I’m focused on being governor,” he said.

He said he would be happy to talk about campaign matters if and when he does become a candidate. Well, you could perceive that as an insult to the intelligence of the voters. You don’t have to be very sophisticated to know that is something has a beak and feathers, it’s not a raccoon.

Snyder is clearly running hard for reelection. But I am sure he wasn’t trying to insult us; he has become a full-fledged politician, and that’s how the game is played. For as long as he can, he wants to maintain the polite fiction that his doings are the nonpartisan actions of the chief executive, working hard for all the people of the state.

You get treated differently by the media, after all, the minute you are officially just another candidate out there grubbing for votes. As someone noted on a public affairs program the other day, reporters covering any campaign story need to get both sides. If Rick Snyder were officially a candidate for reelection, journalists would run to get comments from Mark Schauer every time the governor did anything.

Schauer is the Democrats’ candidate for governor next year. He has announced, and he is out there running hard.

Except he is at a multiple disadvantage. For one thing, he isn’t in office, so he can’t very well make news by setting policy and signing bills.

For another, the media aren’t doing much to cover a campaign for an election more than a year off. That means most of the time, Schauer is essentially invisible.

The fact is that regardless of whether he has formally declared his candidacy, Rick Snyder is running for re-election, and it is time we recognized that.

Journalism is more than stenography and to pretend the governor is not a candidate is, frankly, absurd.

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