In An Age of Ideological Lockstep, The Nerd Is An Enigma Outside of Michigan
In this political age of ideological purity, Gov. Rick Snyder of Michigan is an enigma.
Mr. Snyder, a Republican business executive who took office last year after a wave of G.O.P. statehouse victories, has told his Republican-dominated Legislature that a right-to-work measure is not on his agenda. The issue, he says, is too divisive.
And as some lawmakers made it clear that they intended to take their time considering their options on the national health care law, Mr. Snyder said Michigan needed to move swiftly to set up a health insurance exchange.
Then, last month, to the astonishment of Republicans who had sponsored some voting measures, Mr. Snyder vetoed several of them, including one that called for requiring photo identification to get an absentee ballot.
Mr. Snyder, who never sought elective office before he ran for governor with the unlikely slogan “One Tough Nerd,” says he is unambiguously a Republican, and it is a description with which many Michigan Democrats strenuously (and unhappily) concur. Yet Mr. Snyder, a former accountant who has single-mindedly focused on Michigan’s economic woes, also studiously steers clear of public party-line battles and avoids the sort of language that riles up some Republican crowds. And, in a state that Mitt Romney hopes to make a battleground, he has even sidestepped opportunities to criticize President Obama.
“I’m a proud Republican — there’s no issue with that at all, so why can’t I be a proud Republican and just try to solve problems?” Mr. Snyder, who turns 54 on Sunday, said in an interview.
“I feel a lot of this is just common sense,” he went on. “If you dropped all the rhetoric, all the fighting, in a lot of ways people could come up with solutions they could all agree on.”
Mr. Snyder likes to call his approach “relentless positive action,” a term that prompts eye rolls from some Michigan politicians for its earnest, self-help-book sound and for his frequent use of it. The nonideological tack has kept him outside the brightest spotlight, making him a quieter, plainer counterpart to firebrands like Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin or Gov. Paul R. LePage of Maine, who arrived in the same Republican wave.
Unsettled is whether Mr. Snyder’s method can work with a national partisan divide that seems to grow deeper by the instant.