Election coverage 2012: Gov. Rick Snyder’s political capital boosted as he enters 2nd half of his term

From MLive
November 8, 2012

By David Eggert

LANSING, MI – His name appeared nowhere on the ballot, but Gov. Rick Snyder generally fared well in the first major statewide election since his own win two years ago – with one big exception.

Five of the six ballot initiatives he campaigned against, including three that directly challenged laws or deals he signed, went down to convincing defeats. Republicans kept full control of state government despite big wins by President Barack Obama and U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow. Snyder’s decision to personally campaign for embattled House Speaker Jase Bolger did not backfire.

The setback, not a minor one, was the repeal of the 2011 law he signed to give the state more power to appoint emergency managers to oversee finances in struggling cities and school districts.

“From a Michigan perspective, I think it was a good night,” Snyder said Wednesday during a post-election roundtable discussion with reporters in Lansing.

The defeated constitutional amendments, he said, “could have derailed Michigan’s economic comeback. With a ‘no’ vote on those five proposals, we can move forward in many respects. That’s great. I’m ready to go.”

Detroit Regional Chamber President and CEO Sandy Baruah said Snyder had a strong election.

“He got hit on one flank with Matty Moroun and $31 billion in money. He was hit on another flank with unions and union bosses. And each one of them got defeated. I think this is a huge win for the governor.”

Michigan State University assistant political science professor Matt Grossman said Snyder to date has been “extraordinarily successful” in passing policies without sustaining much political damage from either end of the spectrum.

He and the GOP-led Legislature approved laws cutting public workers’ benefits and making them pay more out of pocket, but he did not face the level of personal backlash as in Wisconsin or Ohio. He raised individual taxes to cut business taxes without much blowback from his own party.

“So far, his record of being able to pass things without paying a major political price on either side is pretty good,” Grossman said.

In two years, however, he will be at the mercy of voters who get a direct say in the job he is doing and his tax policies.

An exit poll conducted for the Associated Press and TV networks showed that one-third of Michigan voters blamed President Barack Obama for current economic problems, while a solid majority said former President George W. Bush was more at fault. The 2014 gubernatorial election likely will be a referendum on Snyder’s state economy and an unemployment rate that initially dropped under his watch but is inching up again.

His tone could be important as he prepares for a re-election bid in the coming year. On Wednesday, he said of the repeal of the emergency manager law, or Proposal 1:

“I am disappointed because it does make life more complicated. … I think we need to be thoughtful about this because the people have spoken on Public Act 4. But there are potentially pieces of either things that had been previously discussed that were sort of drafts or parts of either the old law or new law that are worth looking at.”

He said he wants to get feedback from residents while deciding how to proceed. He again said right-to-work legislation is not on his agenda despite the union-backed Proposal 2 being rejected Tuesday.

“I’ve traditionally had a good working relationship with (United Auto Workers President) Bob King. I would hope that is still the case. I thought Proposal 2 was a massive overreach in terms of our constitution and our existing laws. So I think it’s very positive it was defeated… I still believe in collective bargaining.”

How much credit should the first-term governor receive for going five of six on the ballot issues?

Grossman said Snyder had a built-in advantage being able to line up on the “no” side of five constitutional amendments, which often tend to gain more opposition in the lead-up to Election Day. Still, he said, the governor’s “yes on 1, no on the rest” message had resonance with editorial boards and interest groups.

“That may have had some influence,” Grossman said.

Though Michigan was a big success for Obama and Stabenow, fewer Democrats will show up to vote in 2014. State voters also generally like to give their governors more than one term.

“The Obama campaign in particular had a very organized get-out-the-vote campaign, which further increased turnout,” said Michael Traugott, a political science and communications studies professor at the University of Michigan. “That won’t be present in 2014.”

Email David Eggert at deggert1@mlive.com and follow him on Twitter @DavidEggert00