As the nation turns towards the Michigan primary on Tuesday, Mitt Romney’s tight fight to win his home state is an indication that Republican voters are still uncomfortable about what a “moderate’ Romney presidency will bring. The irony is that a resurgent Michigan this year is benefiting from technocratic Romneyism.
If you want to see what a Romney presidency looks like look no further than Michigan’s new businessman governor, the former private-equity millionaire Rick Snyder.
Like Romney, Snyder is a successful former CEO and private equity investor who came into office pledging to run state government like a business. Viewing his term like that of a turnaround expert tackling a failing firm, Snyder has put in place “metrics” and “dashboards” and other business systems that have addressed the state’s fundamental budget problems and reversed the state’s bond-rating slide.
Basking in the glow of a report from the Tax Foundation acknowledging that Michigan’s tax burden has improved from an awful 49th to impressive 7th, it’s hard to remember that Snyder barely made it through the GOP primary just two years ago – scorned by conservatives as a RINO imposter.
The Obama presidency is a replay of the disastrous, rudderless, red-ink Green cronyism of Democrat Jennifer Granholm, governor from 2002-2010. Granholm and Obama are American Idol selections – not executives. Their rhetoric soars, but their management is nonexistent. Reeling from Granholm’s eight lost years of infrastructure stimulus, green investments, and tax hikes, Michigan two years ago looked to a talented field of conservatives – and one moderate, millionaire businessman.
“One Tough Nerd Snyder” eschewed conservative rhetoric and told GOP primary voters that he would run Michigan as a business. His 10-point plan promised jobs, tax reform, a fixed government and lots of airy platitudes. He survived the primary only because Mike Cox, Pete Hoekstra, and Michael Bouchard split the conservative vote.
The Nerd likely became governor because – unlike businessman Dick DeVos four earlier – he didn’t have to run against incumbent Jenifer Granholm. Instead, Snyder faced Granholm’s divisive, cynical brand of political campaigning in the form of unknown Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero. He smeared Snyder as a jobs-to-China outsourcer and a Richie Rich who stole $23 million from Gateway Corp. to start a private equity firm.
Remember? It all seems so irrelevant to governing today. And govern Snyder has. In one year – with the help of a Republican legislature-he has put the budget on a sustainable path by concentrating on business metrics, simplified taxes, and reducing long-term liabilities.
After eight years of rudderless, Granholm turmoil, it has been refreshing. GOP die-hards still call Snyder a RINO. He’s too squishy on Obamacare. He wants to build an ill-advised bridge. He isn’t John Engler (except in his stunning list of legislative achievements). Like Rodney Dangerfield, he gets no respect. Except from a government and business community that can finally see a light at the end of Michigan’s fiscal tunnel.
Governor Snyder meet President Romney.