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Will Gov. Snyder help - or hurt - fellow Republicans up for election in November?

Governor Rick Snyder is not on the ballot this year but he is using Election 2016 to burnish his image and protect his legacy.  

Snyder has at least two committees doing political work on behalf of Republican candidates in this election cycle. His Relentless Positive Action political action committee is endorsing and donating to candidates, mostly for state House seats.

He’s working to ensure the last two years of his administration match the first six in having substantial Republican majorities to work with.

There’s a lot at stake. A Democratic takeover of the state House is a real possibility.

But Snyder is also trying just as hard to mitigate or even reverse a lot of the damage his reputation has suffered in the past year, mostly because of the Flint water crisis.

Flint reset the narrative of his administration from having the success of the “quick rinse” Detroit bankruptcy to a pattern of failures and embarrassments - one damaging revelation after another about Flint, a damning audit of a state-run veterans’ homes in Grand Rapids, very public spats with Attorney General - and fellow Republican - Bill Schuette on a host of political issues and legal questions.   

Focus has remained on those issues instead of the improving unemployment rate, the Detroit turnaround, and declining crime in Michigan cities. Instead, a recent Detroit News/WDIV TV poll says more than half - 52 percent - of Michigan voters disapprove of the job he’s doing.

So, Snyder is taking to the airwaves with ads that focus praise on his record as governor and throw a little support to Republican state House candidates.

Making Government Accountable is a tax-exempt not-for-profit group that was formed by Snyder to promote the Michigan comeback narrative as he was contemplating a run for the White House last year. But his political action committee, the Relentless Positive Action PAC, is also engaged with endorsements and campaign donations.

This reputation-rescue operation isn’t just about ego. This is about preserving the things he’s put in place as governor.  And building some political clout in an election year that could be a tough one for Republicans on the ballot.

But, Snyder has to be careful. The reality is he is unpopular - he doesn’t want to help so much that his problems become a problem for Republican candidates in tight races.

Zoe Clark is Michigan Public's Political Director. In this role, Clark guides coverage of the state Capitol, elections, and policy debates.
Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987.
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