No Michigan governor has been denied re-election since the state adopted a four-year gubernatorial term more than a half-century ago. This year, the odds should again favor incumbent Republican Rick Snyder, who was elected by a landslide four years ago.
Mr. Snyder is bound to have far more money than his Democratic challenger, former congressman Mark Schauer. Republicans are at an advantage in off-year elections, because their voters are more likely to turn out than Democrats.
Yet there is reason to think Governor Snyder may face a steep challenge nonetheless. Early in his administration, he angered elderly Michiganians by pushing through a law to tax their pensions and give business a massive tax cut — which has yet to pay off in promised new jobs.
Mr. Snyder also helped ram a “right-to-work” law through the Legislature in a single day. He has presided over what most voters see as big cuts in state aid to public schools and higher education.
Today, polls show the governor is only a few points ahead of his often soft-spoken challenger, even though most voters acknowledge they have no clear idea of who Mr. Schauer is. That may soon change.
In the past few weeks, Mr. Schauer seems to have found his voice. He selected perhaps his strongest possible running mate — Oakland County Clerk Lisa Brown, an energetic former lawmaker who became known statewide after Republican leaders foolishly tried to muzzle her for using the word “vagina” during debate on a bill.
Last weekend, Mr. Schauer made the first strong speech of his campaign. He proposed an agenda that includes repealing Mr. Snyder’s pension tax and strengthening public education. He vowed to “wake up each and every day fighting for a strong middle class, because the best way to grow a stronger economy is from the bottom up and the middle up, not the top down.”
The election is more than six months away, and Mr. Snyder has formidable advantages. But if he and other Republicans expect an easy victory in November, they may be rudely surprised.