At any given time, someone is pissed off at Michigan Governor Rick Snyder.
It was the National Rifle Association last week, which was disappointed when a bill to streamline how conceal-carry licenses were issued in Michigan was vetoed. They were soon joined by the e-cigarette lobby, which watched the Republican governor veto a bill that would have saved their product from the same regulations as traditional cigarettes.
Late last year the American Civil Liberties Union was upset with the self-described "tough nerd" for signing a bill requiring welfare recipients to take a drug test if they are suspected of using drugs.
He's raised taxes on individuals to finance a tax cut to business but also signed a bill to enforce the collection of sales tax on the Internet. He signed "right-to-work" legislation—in Michigan of all places—and strengthened anti-abortion laws. But he also expanded Medicaid and tried to create a statewide healthcare exchange (the effort was thwarted by the Republican-led legislature).
Who is this guy?
His mixed record caused him to be described as an “equal opportunity pisser offer” in The Washington Post last year.
It’s a characterization he does not dispute.
“I don’t use those words, but that’s a fairly accurate assessment,” he said, laughing.
Snyder, a former accountant and venture capitalist, said his decisions are simply “common sense.”
“I think we struck a smart balance...on almost every issue I’ve worked on I have people on both sides mad at me,” he said. “I don’t want to over simplify it but people try to put artificial political lens on good decisions.”
For example, Snyder explained the main thrust of the conceal-carry legislation was good but it had some unacceptable language he could not ok.
“The main purpose of that legislation had a number of good things about revising how we were doing gun boards itself,” Snyder said in an interview with The Daily Beast. “But as a part of the legislative drafting process, language got in there that basically said, if someone had a protective order against them, that theoretically they could come apply for a concealed weapon. That would be a bad thing to do.”
It’s not the first time he’s bucked the NRA—he vetoed a conceal-carry bill that would have allowed concealed guns in schools in 2012. But the group didn’t hold a grudge—it still endorsed him for reelection in 2014. Oddly enough, so did gun-control activist and former New York City mayor Michal Bloomberg.
On e-cigarettes, Snyder said, “I appreciated them prohibiting minors from getting them not them, but to not say it’s a tobacco product, again, doesn’t make any sense to me.”
Even on the welfare bill, Snyder said he worked to strike a balance, pointing out that earlier drafts of the legislation required those who tested positive for drugs to lose their coverage entirely. He helped redraft it to say that people who tested positive for drugs to be put in a treatment program.
“I said that was unacceptable,” he said. “My view is, we not there to penalize people. The goal was to say, ‘If someone has a drug problem let’s help them.”
Susan Demas, editor and publisher of Inside Michigan Politics, said Snyder’s willingness to go outside of traditional political orthodoxy doesn't make him necessarily any less conservative.
“I don't think anyone could call him orthodox, he doesn’t come from a political background, but I do think that oftentimes people tend to concentrate on these few exceptions instead of where his record really lies,” she said.
“He’s definitely been a big conservative governor,” she added.
Snyder, who fended off a strong challenge from former Democratic Rep. Mark Schauer last fall, attributed his win to his positive message—a lesson he says the presumptive Republican presidential field should take to heart.
“Shouldn’t we treat each other well? We’re all—we are all Americans, why would you go out of your way to cut down, say negative comments, do anything that is not in a positive construct with anyone you are doing anything with?” he said.
So far, Snyder hasn't expressed any real interest in taking his positive message on the road—even though he is term-limited from running again for governor.
“A lot of people speculate about a lot of things, but I do get some calls,” urging a presidential run, he said. “I’m proud being the governor of the state of Michigan.”
And like Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, he believes the next Republican nominee should be chosen from within the gubernatorial ranks.
“I think the strongest candidates [are] the group of governors because of the experience level, being a chief executive," he said. "I think that’s something that’s really important.”
He added, “I think the average citizen of our country is fed up with politicians fighting and blaming one another.”