LANSING, Mich. – Former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder backed Joe Biden for president on Thursday, becoming the latest high-profile Republican to support the Democratic nominee over President Donald Trump.
“Donald Trump has actually been leading the charge on incivility. The divisiveness in our nation has not been worse in our lifetimes,” Snyder told The Associated Press after he announced his decision in a USA Today op-ed. Biden, he said, is “a good, decent man. ... You can tell he's a person of character that cares. We need to heal our country."
In the op-ed, Snyder — who is known for staying positive — was uncharacteristically critical of Trump. He called him a “bully,” saying it is “tragedy watching our world suffer from one.” He said Trump lacks a moral compass, ignores the truth and does not appreciate public policy matters.
The announcement from Snyder, who served in battleground Michigan from 2011 through 2018, came in conjunction with the launch of Republicans and Independents for Biden, a coalition of nearly 100 former and current officeholders, government officials and political operatives. The group is affiliated and funded by the anti-Trump Lincoln Project PAC.
The coalition is the latest group of Republicans supporting Biden to come out publicly as Trump comes under criticism for his handling of the coronavirus and race relations. Some backed Hillary Clinton in 2016. Snyder did not endorse a candidate in that race, when Trump became the first Republican to win Michigan in 28 years, by roughly two-tenths of a percentage point.
Former New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman, who endorsed Biden at the recent Democratic National Convention along with former Ohio Gov. John Kasich, is chairing the group's steering committee, which includes Snyder, former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld and at least 20 former members of Congress.
“More than 180,000 Americans are dead from a pandemic that, with consistent leadership, could have been contained,” Whitman said. "Instead, it has been left to spin out of control by a president who ignored it, refused to lead and endangered American lives.”
In a tweet, Michigan Republican Party Chairwoman Laura Cox dismissed Snyder's decision, calling him “Mr. Irrelevant” and saying no voter cares whom he supports. “Thankfully, just as he did in 2016, President Trump will win Michigan without Rick Snyder's help.”
Chris Gustafson, Michigan spokesman for Trump Victory, the joint field operation of the Republican National Committee and Trump's campaign, said the president “continues to enjoy unprecedented support from Republicans.”
In an interview, Snyder said he tried to have an open mind about Trump but when he attended his inauguration, the president talked about “how he was going to take care of the people that voted for him. It wasn’t about representing all Americans.” He said he had good relationships with some people in Trump’s administration but it was “challenged” overall in getting things done for Michigan, with some exceptions.
The virus outbreak requires national leadership to “get us out of this,” said Snyder, who said he remains a Republican and will back other GOP candidates. “The Trump response to the pandemic has not been good — everything from masks to testing to having PPE supplies. That’s not gone well.”
Follow David Eggert at https://twitter.com/DavidEggert00