Two Midwestern Republican governors said Mitt Romney presents the party’s best candidate for president, while saying that Democratic President Barack Obama has an edge in their states.
Michigan’s Rick Snyder predicted Romney, whom he endorsed, would win his state’s primary Feb. 28 in a “close” race. “He’s made a lot of progress off the last week or so, in terms of polling,” Snyder in an interview on Bloomberg Television’s “Political Capital with Al Hunt,” airing this weekend.
Later in the show, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker said he wouldn’t endorse before the state’s April 3 primary, while allowing that “conventional wisdom in our state is still Mitt Romney will be the nominee and that he’ll do very well in Wisconsin.”
Both governors said Obama, who prevailed over Republican candidate John McCain in their states in 2008, remains the favorite to carry them in November. Obama won Michigan by 16 percentage points in 2008 and Wisconsin by 14 points.
How voters view the economy come the Nov. 6 election will be “the question mark,” Walker said.
“If they feel like we’re headed towards greater prosperity not only in Wisconsin, but across the country, then I think the president’s going to continue,” he said. “If they feel like that’s a question mark and we need somebody else to turn things around, then I think the challenger has it.”
Snyder said the presidential candidates would face what he found in his own election in November 2010: “The two things that are on people’s minds are more and better jobs for the future, and a brighter future for the kids.”
The Bloomberg Economic Evaluation of States index shows Michigan’s economic health compared with other states fell 1.3 percent between the first quarter of 2009, when Obama took office, and the third quarter of 2011, the most recent data available. Even so, Michigan’s economic health fared better than any other state except for North Dakota.
Wisconsin’s (BEESWI) economic health declined 9.3 percent in that same time period, about in the middle of the pack of 50 states plus the District of Columbia.
Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum’s rise in Michigan polls over the past two weeks put the state of Romney’s birth in play. A Detroit Free Press/WXYZ survey of 400 likely voters conducted Feb. 18-21 showed Santorum with a 3 percentage point edge over Romney. A Mitchell/Rosetta Stone survey of 430 likely voters Feb. 23 showed Romney ahead of Santorum by 3 percentage points.
Indiana’s Republican Governor Mitch Daniels, who decided against running for president, said today in an interview that he has no interest in getting into the race should the nominating fight drag on. Asked whether he would reconsider, he said “no.”
In addition to polls swinging back toward Romney, Snyder said, the former Massachusetts governor’s campaign events in the state in recent days have influenced voters.
“He’s getting an opportunity now to get around Michigan and talk about what he’s achieved and where he wants to head, and that’s the important thing,” he said.
Snyder, 53, supported the federal rescue of Detroit’s General Motors Co. (GM) and Chrysler Group LLC, which have both since become profitable. Romney, who made his fortune as a turnaround artist for struggling companies, said the government shouldn’t have propped up the auto industry.
Romney instead proposed in a New York Times essay a “managed bankruptcy” that would have relied on an outside entity providing money to the companies -- something Republicans and Democrats involved in the industry said wasn’t feasible at the time.
Asked whether Romney’s stance was an obstacle for him in Michigan, Snyder replied, “He had a different solution, and that might have worked, but we’ll never know.”
Snyder also said the candidates should focus on cutting unemployment , not on “hypotheticals” about past events.
Walker, 44, said he wouldn’t endorse in the Republican presidential race because he is focused on defeating a recall effort prompted by his pushing through legislation restricting collective bargaining for most public employees.
Union-bashing, and other negative rhetoric, won’t play well in the presidential race, Walker said, adding that the Republican White House contenders were doing too much of it, a reflection of the primary process.
“If the nominee’s going to win, it’s got to be about optimism and the belief that there’s a positive vision the Republicans offer, not just how bad the Democrats are,” he said.
Walker predicted he would win the recall election, saying voters would “see that the bogeyman didn’t happen, the things that those unions, those public employee unions talked about didn’t happen, and instead our state is better off because of it.”
On the issue of budget shortfalls in Detroit, Snyder said he hopes to avoid appointing an emergency manager to run the city.
“We’re making progress, working with the city, the mayor, the City Council on a consent agreement, which is basically an agreement between the three parties to say, ‘Let’s work out way out of this in a more positive way,’” Snyder said.
He said he’d revisit the possibility of an emergency manager in 30 days.
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