DETROIT (AP) — Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder said Tuesday that national Republicans would be wise to take their cues from leaders in the states rather than Washington, D.C., as they try to regroup from a string of election defeats, and he cited his own pro-immigration stance as one way the party could become more inclusive.
In an interview with The Associated Press, Snyder largely echoed comments from GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney and the Republican National Committee in recent days suggesting conservatives can learn lessons from the country's 30 GOP governors.
Snyder said looking to governors "is probably a good mode because I think I've been fairly pro-immigration in general for quite a while." He has said immigrants can help grow the state's economy, but the immigration system deters foreign investment and leads talented foreign students to return to their countries.
"I've always believed in reaching out to different coalitions and groups and getting them in engaged in a positive discussion and learning what their issues are. It's about bringing people together, not being divisive," the first-term governor said during a break from his two-day economic summit in Detroit. "It's about staying focused on solving problems and doing the right thing."
In December, Snyder rankled many in Michigan when he helped push a right-to-work law, which he previously had said was too divisive and not on his agenda. Despite signing the legislation, which earned him praise from Romney in a recent speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference, Snyder remains out of favor with some of the party's conservatives. That's partly because of his more moderate views on other issues, such as an openness to raise some taxes and his call to expand Medicaid coverage under the federal health care overhaul.
Snyder is among the Republican governors along with Chris Christie of New Jersey and Bob McDonnell of Virginia who were not invited to the conference.
Though he said he does not think much about the wrangling over the GOP's future nationally because he is focused on Michigan, Snyder said he agreed GOP governors should be studied and he thinks his track record is pretty good. He did not directly criticize the party but did mention Washington and the partisanship.
"Relentless positive action could be used in Washington. Just think what it would be like if they blamed no one and took credit for nothing," Snyder said. "They'd have a whole lot more time to solve problems."
His comments came a day after the RNC released a roadmap to make the party more inclusive even as its chairman Reince Priebus distanced himself from it. The report, which did not specifically mention Snyder, said: "Republican governors, conservatives at their core, have campaigned and governed in a manner that is inclusive and appealing. They point the way forward."
It credited GOP governors for making their states more "customer-focused" — a favorite theme for Snyder — and blamed Republican presidential and congressional candidates for not reaching out beyond the party's base.
Snyder said he had not yet read the 100-page study but had read media accounts.
"They talked about a lot of other topics, but I still come back to jobs and kids being the central focus," he said.
In response to Snyder's comments, a liberal-leaning advocacy group said Snyder's agenda is wearing thin with voters and criticized cuts to K-12 schools and his move to tax pension income.
"If Washington Republicans think Gov. Snyder's first two years in office are a recipe for electoral success, they are in for a rude awakening," said Zach Pohl, executive director of Progress Michigan.
Email David Eggert at deggert(at)ap.org and follow him at http://twitter.com/DavidEggert00