If Mitt Romney Was Named Rick Snyder, He Might Be Winning Right Now
President Barack Obama is currently riding high in the polls after a pitch-perfect convention. He’s expanded his lead in key battleground states as the Romney campaign has seemingly decided to cede electoral vote-rich states like Michigan and Pennsylvania by pulling its TV ads.
Even as Obama’s convention bounce is likely to fade, it’s clear that right he has an inside track to re-election.
The thing of it is, he shouldn’t. His fault or not (argue that amongst yourselves), the economy is still sluggish and unemployment remains high. Normally, that’s bad news for an incumbent president in an election year.
Obama, however, benefits from facing Mitt Romney who is, in grand Massachusetts tradition, looking as weak a presidential challenger as Michael Dukakis and John Kerry.
This race would be very different, I think, if someone in the mold of Rick Snyder was topping the GOP ticket instead of Romney.
There exists a perception that Rick Snyder is a moderate in the Bill Milliken mold, but to arrive at that conclusion you have to yield the entire political right to people who bray at the moon, i.e. Dave Agema or Pam Geller.
The truth is Snyder governs like any bedrock conservative. He likes his taxes low, his regulatory system pro-business, and (probably) his Scotch single malt. He prefers private-sector solutions to what were traditionally public-sector problems. On social issues, he has more often than not sought to appease social conservatives.
People confuse Snyder’s very conventional conservativism with Rockefellerian squishiness because Snyder gets that a smaller, leaner government must be governed effectively.
“I don’t do old-fashioned government,” Snyder said at Wednesday’s Belle Isle state park announcement. “This is not about coming in to spend X dollars. This is, at some point after you’ve done your homework, here are good projects that we’re going to do and here’s the dollars required to do that, and this is where we are finding those dollars.”
Synder has shown a wiliness to spend political capital and public dollars on policies he believes to benefit the greater good. In other words, within the framework of his small government worldview, he actually governs. This is Snyder’s great strength as a governor, and his genius as a politician.
Snyder isn’t perfect to my mind. Rubber-stamping the Agema wing of the GOP’s ban on long-standing domestic partnership benefits only validated the Michissippi perception of the Great Lake State. His education policies will exacerbate rather than resolve the problem of exponentially rising tuition prices. That’s a real problem because the University of Michigan education that launched Snyder to so much success is now, in real inflation-adjusted dollars, more expensive than in the 1970s when he was a student.
However, even Snyder’s fiercest critics have to concede that when he identifies a project the state government should address (transportation infrastructure, for example) he doesn’t hedge. Like any good-government conservative, he wants his projects to be as lean as possible and preferably some kind of public-private partnership, but he wants to actually govern.
It’s not clear if Mitt Romney shares that desire to govern. So far as anyone can tell, Romney’s one deeply held belief is that he and his well-bred friends should pay lower taxes. On everything else from the auto industry to abortion to the health care mandate, Romney is pure Etch-A-Sketch.
It’s one thing for a person to change their mind on an issue (Obama did it on gay marriage and George Romney did it on the Vietnam War) but the frequency and obvious political expediency of Romney’s shifting position make him suspect. He doesn't seem like a man who would care about governing because he doesn’t actually care about issues involved in governing, or the people affected.
Winning the White House seems like it's own end. If Mitt Romney didn’t exist, one might think he was a Sinclair Lewis character--a true-blue Babbitt who lives by the creed that he who dies with the most impressive resume wins.
In contrast, Snyder (whatever you may think of his solutions) has shown himself to be very much interested in the problems of other human beings. The power of his office is his means rather than his end.
The distinction is subtle in many ways, but it makes all the difference in the world for the non-ideologically driven voters who ultimately decide presidential races.
Romney's insincerity, and his disinterest in the stuff that makes people care about politics in the first place, shines through with voters. That’s why, despite all the fundamental reasons why Obama should be running uphill, it’s Romney who's trailing.
If Romney were more like Snyder, this might be a very different race.