Gov. Rick Snyder (R-Mich.) built his so-called “Grand Bargain” that moved Detroit through the largest municipal bankruptcy in the nation’s history on the backs of retired Motor City police, firefighters and other city workers.
So said Mark Schauer, a former congressman and Democrat who wants to make Snyder a one-term governor, on MSNBC’s Daily Rundown show with Chuck Todd on July 15.
“He is cutting pensions for police officers, firefighters, city retirees who are now paying more for healthcare,” he said.
Schauer spoke with the confidence of a political underdog who has pulled into a tie with the incumbent.
A few hours before his live shot on Daily Rundown, an NBC News-Marist poll was released showing Schauer had pulled into a virtual tie with Michigan’s governor.
The poll had Snyder leading Schauer by only 46-44 percent with a margin of error of 3.3 percent.
This is the second poll to be released in July that shows Schauer has made up a lot of ground. The Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling survey of Michigan voters released July 1 showed Snyder and Schauer tied at 40-40.
What a difference half-a-year can make. At the beginning of 2014, the Democratic-leaning LE&A/Denno Research poll had Snyder in the lead by 14 points.
If it wasn’t for independent voters, Schauer would have blown by Snyder this time.
The NBC-Marist poll shows Snyder holding a 14-point lead among independent voters, the same people who made the difference in 2010 when Snyder beat GOP primary opponents trying to out-Tea Party each other.
That field included former Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-Mich.), who two years later was later defeated in a Senate race by Democrat Debbie Stabenow after running a TV ad featuring an American-Asian woman speaking “pigeon-English.”
Snyder easily won the November 2010 gubernatorial election, coasting to victory over the mayor of Lansing, Mich., Virg Bernero.
However, Snyder has more going for him than weak opposition.
His job-approval rating was 49 percent in the NBC-Marist poll. By comparison, only 25 percent of registered voters in Michigan view Schauer favorably, and 53 percent are either unsure of who he is or have never heard of him.
Snyder also has this going for him: Michigan’s unemployment rate went down from 11 percent in January 2011 to 7.5 percent in May 2014.
He has also won a series of victories in the Republican-controlled legislature including the so-called “Grand Bargain” that brought Detroit through the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history.
However, in addition to his disagreement with the cuts to Detroit municipal retiree pensions and benefits, Schauer told Chuck Todd that Snyder has propped up Michigan’s economy by raising taxes on seniors, through a new tax on pensions.
Schauer claimed Snyder has created “one of the worst economies in the country,” while “cutting $1 billion from public education funding to pay for a $1.8 billion tax giveaway for corporations even if they send jobs overseas.”
“Michigan is projected to be 49th out of the 50 states in job growth over the next 10 years. We need an economy that works for everyone, not just the wealthy,” Schauer said.
Schauer also pointed out the legislature failed to approve Snyder’s proposal to rebuild roads and bridges in Michigan.
The state House and Senate — controlled by Republicans — adjourned in June without completing action on Snyder’s proposals to spend $1.2 billion annually on highway and bridge repair.
Still, a Michigan Republican would counter by saying at least Snyder has a plan.
Schauer has been hit hard by Republican advertising claiming he has no plan for Michigan’s future. One of the TV ads shows clips of Schauer telling reporters that he “hasn’t done a forecast on that” or is not “prepared to discuss that,” ending with the punchline, “Tell Mark Schauer having no plan is not an option.”
Chuck Todd challenged him on his lack of specifics. Schauer retreated to his campaign theme that Snyder has cut too much state money from public education.
“First we have to put $1 billion back in public education,” Schauer said. “He (Snyder) has systematically privatized public education.”
But Schauer also stressed his campaign theme that he would make Michigan’s economy work for the many, not just the few.
“We would stop giving tax breaks to companies that outsource their jobs,” he said. “Snyder just gave a contract to the Canadian company that created the healthcare.gov website that didn’t work.”
Schauer also addressed a problem that has cropped up in poll after poll: More than 50 percent of registered voters can’t put a name to his face.
They just don’t know who Mark Schauer is.
The candidate said that can be turned into a positive.
“There are still a lot of voters who haven’t met me yet, don’t know my commitment to public education, and don’t know that while in Congress, I helped save the auto industry.”
(For complete 2014 midterm coverage, get your campaign fix on The Grid.)