Top 10 reasons Virg will run for governor

By Neal McNamara

Not to steal any of Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero’s thunder here, but the man is running for governor.

You can take him at his word, that’s he taking 30 days to look at it, but the guy is running. Obviously, Bernero is getting interest in his flirtation with the post and now people want to give him money. He wouldn’t have filed this "exploratory committee" this week otherwise.

Anything he raises between now and the Dec. 30 filing deadline will look ginormous compared to whatever Democratic frontrunner John Cherry and his fundraising team scraped together/left in the bank after an entire year of work.

Of course, this isn’t a reason Virg is running for governor, it’s only proof that he will.

So why would Bernero take the plunge only weeks removed from his mayoral reelection? I’ll give you 10.

No. 1 — Because he can. Virg overperformed in his re-election bid, winning by several percentage points above the most generous pre-election predictions. In political lingo, running for governor is a "free shot" for him. If he loses, he’ll still be mayor of Lansing. If he wants to run for re-election in 2013, memories of this gubernatorial flirtation will be long gone.

No. 2 — Cherry doesn’t have it locked down. Republicans believe Lt. Gov. John Cherry is a shoo-in for the Democratic nomination. That’s because they hope he wins and because the GOP is known for giving nominations based on it being "their turn." (See: Dick Posthumus, Bob Dole, John McCain, etc.) Things don’t always work that way in Democratic primaries. (See: Geoffrey Fieger, Jennifer Granholm, Barack Obama, etc.)

Cherry’s name ID in polls isn’t strong. Having organized labor support isn’t what it used to be. Besides that, the Democrats’ bench in the state isn’t deep. House Speaker Andy Dillon is too conservative and has waited too long to get off the dime.

If not Virg, than who? I like announced candidates Rep. Alma Wheeler Smith and John Freeman, but they haven’t generated any traction.

No. 3 — Virg loves to campaign. Think about this: Virg Bernero has run for a public office in 2000, 2002, 2003, 2005 and 2009. That’s five races in nine years, and he’s 4-1 in those elections. This guy feeds off knocking doors. Putting up his green signs. He loves the work. He loves the challenge.

No. 4 — He’s got the message. While Cherry shrugs around the state with eight years of Gov. Granholm around his neck, Bernero can run as a Lansing outsider who can claim to feel the pain of working men and women at a time when the Wall St. "fat cats" keep their wallets padded. Nobody fires up that populist message like Virg.

No. 5 — I can’t wait until Virg Bernero officially announces so I can see if the national media show up. If it’s a slow news day, my guess is "yes." FOX and CNN wouldn’t have put this guy on the air as many times if he wasn’t a ratings magnet. He’s loud. He’s passionate. He’s witty. He’ll mix it up with commentators. But maybe more important, you get the impression he actually believes what he’s saying. His name ID is small statewide, but nobody can gin up free media like Virg.

No. 6 — The guy has been a pretty good mayor, all things considering. When the worst you can say about his record is that he’s been tough on the employee unions and he’s closed a couple public-owned golf courses, you’re doing OK. He surrounds himself with good administrators. He’s a strong leader. To those who aren’t on the other side of it, his bombastic nature is almost charming.

No. 7 — If it’s true that Virg’s family is behind his gubernatorial interest, this is huge. Nothing will torpedo a political candidacy quicker than not having the spouse and kids on board.

No. 8 — Obama. Allegedly, Obama’s people are talking him into running. This could all be B.S., but obviously, he’s getting encouragement from someone other than himself and a few of his top supporters.

No. 9 — He can raise money. The guy raised $360,000 in a bad economy for a mayoral re-election campaign. He’s earned a pro-business reputation as mayor, which would help him get checks running against someone with the type of strong union ties Cherry has.

No. 10 — Because he’s Virg. He’s a ladder-climber. He’s a politician. He smells blood in the water and like any other savy political opportunist, he’s going to strike.

(Kyle Melinn is the editor at the MIRS newsletter. His column runs weekly. E-mail him at