MACKINAC ISLAND, Mich. - Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder all but declared his re-election campaign Friday, telling Republicans they can be proud of his record even as he defended signing a key component of the federal health care law unpopular with his own party's base.
"We are winning folks, and we should be darn proud of it and we need to tell people about it," he told GOP leaders and activists gathered for their every-other-year conference on Mackinac Island. He held up a long list of claimed successes such as job creation and called suggestions that he might not stick with government service "hogwash man."
"We're going to keep going and we're going to reinvent our state," Snyder said to loud applause.
Just before his speech, the crowd watched a Snyder campaign video calling him "one successful nerd," a follow-up to his 2010 "one tough nerd" campaign moniker. He also asked for money from supporters in an email and said to stay tuned. An official announcement is expected early next year.
His remarks came amid intraparty tension four days after he signed a bill providing Medicaid health insurance to hundreds of thousands of low-income adults under the federal health care overhaul.
Many in the traditional business wing of the party embrace the first-term governor, a former computer executive and accountant who signed a right-to-work law and cut corporate taxes. But some in the tea-party wing are angry about the Medicaid expansion, a tax on retirement income and other decisions.
Still, no "surprise" GOP challenger emerged Friday, though the search continues. At least one, maybe more, already plans to challenge Snyder's likely running mate, Lt. Gov. Brian Calley, at a nominating convention next year.
Snyder brought up the Medicaid law, saying he can prove to Republicans that it is a good thing.
"We're not just following the federal government. We're blazing the Michigan way," he said.
The crucial question may be whether conservatives who have pressured Republicans on legislative votes and successfully upset the apple cart at party conventions can influence a statewide primary or general election. Will their angst with Snyder mean anything in 13 1/2 months?
"No," said former Michigan Republican Party Chairman Saul Anuzis. "The political reality is that there's always been people who sat out because they were disenchanted. That's a pretty small group and I would argue probably not very sophisticated with respect to the politics."
He still expects a strong effort to challenge the governor will be mounted but questioned if organizers understand the logistics involved and funding needed.