Two days after Ohio Gov. John Kasich announced his support for implementing a federal Medicaid expansion, it appears fellow Republican Gov. Rick Snyder will recommend the same in Michigan. After contentious early term battles, the moves signal the swing state executives feel they've done enough to please their conservative base and now need to focus on winning back moderates turned off by bitter partisan battles.
Conservative groups and pundits hit Kasich for the decision earlier this week, but his overall budget was met with tepid approval by editorial boards that had lambasted drastic cost-cutting measures earlier in his term. With Democrats and labor groups determined to portray him as a ruthless bully, the "compassionate conservative" budget was a small first step toward counteracting that image.
Snyder warned donors late last month that a conservative challenger might try to primary him, but his actions suggest he's more worried about an all-out assault from progressives. The self-styled moderate has been portrayed by Democrats as an ideologically driven wolf in sheep's clothing since his passage of right-to-work legislation late in 2012 -- since then he's vetoed a GOP-passed concealed weapons bill and used his State of the State address to propose raising revenue to fix the state's roads.
One Michigan GOP consultant said in a phone interview that Snyder can afford to move back to the middle. The right-to-work battle, he said, sufficiently demonstrated his conservative bona fides. "He's pretty much sealed off the right flank," said the consultant. "If he ends up with a primary challenge from the right, it's going to be token, nominal at best."
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, also a top target of Democrats and labor, has yet to announce whether he'll go ahead with a Medicaid expansion, but seemed to signal Wednesday that he has serious reservations. Kasich and Snyder will now face the difficult task of getting legislative Republicans on board with their proposals, but at the very least, they've eliminated one attack line Democrats surely would have used to cast them as uncaring partisans.