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Published: Wednesday, 4/20/2011

Rick Snyder, politician

There isn't much common ground in politics these days. But if there's one thing everyone in Michigan agrees on, it is this: Gov. Rick Snyder is not a politician.

The new governor happily says so. The media say it. Opposing Democrats say it as they try to dismiss the former venture capitalist and computer executive as a naive businessman who is in way over his head. But it should now be clear that the conventional wisdom is dead wrong.

True, Mr. Snyder never sought office or campaigned for anybody else before he ran for governor last year. Many people weren't even sure he was a Republican.

When he introduced himself to the state with a televised ad proclaiming he was "one tough nerd," experts laughed. They thought calling himself a nerd wasn't going to work in brawling Michigan. But Mr. Snyder won the GOP primary easily and breezed to a landslide victory in November.

Fine, the experts said. But he's bound to have no idea how to deal with Michigan's faction-ridden Legislature. Yet since he took office on New Year's Day, Governor Snyder has been a whirlwind of activity and the Legislature has been a production line for his programs.

In weeks, lawmakers passed more than a dozen new bills, the most significant of which gave vast new powers to emergency financial managers of troubled communities and school districts. Before that, he went to Washington and pulled a political coup, talking a Democratic administration into letting Michigan count $550 million Canada is offering to put up for a new Detroit River bridge as matching money for federal highway funds.

When state budget negotiations stalled over the governor's proposal to tax pensions, he swiftly negotiated a compromise that taxes only future pensions. That gives the governor what he wants without angering senior citizens into taking revenge against GOP lawmakers on the 2012 ballot.

Governor Snyder hasn't yet accomplished everything he's set out to do. Getting approval for the new international- crossing bridge is proving harder than expected. And it isn't clear whether his bet that slashing business taxes will help create jobs is going to pay off.

But it is clear that at age 52, Rick Snyder has become not only a politician, but so far one of the most successful that Michigan has ever seen.



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