MACKINAC ISLAND, Mich. (AP) -- Days after signing a key component of the federal health care law despised by conservatives, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder on Friday all but declared his re-election campaign, telling Republicans they can be proud of his record since the GOP took full control of state government in 2011.
"We are winning folks, and we should be darn proud of it and we need to tell people about it," he told Republican leaders and activists gathered for their every-other-year conference on Mackinac Island. He held up a long list of successes and said suggestions that he might not stick with government service are "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" moniker. He also asked for money from supporters in an email and said to stay tuned. A formal announcement is expected early next year.
His remarks came amid intraparty tension after he signed a bill providing health insurance to hundreds of thousands of adults under the federal health care overhaul.
Many in the traditional business wing of the party embrace Snyder, 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. Yet 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's a good thing.
"We're not just following the federal government. We're blazing the Michigan way," he said.
The next question is whether conservatives who have pressured Republicans on legislative votes and successfully upset the apple cart at party conventions can influence a statewide race. 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 questions if organizers understand the logistics involved and funding needed. Activists have every right to "harass" Snyder and Calley over Medicaid expansion, he said, but in the end the GOP is a center-right coalition. He said critics would be shortsighted to risk fracturing and sending Democratic candidate Mark Schauer to the governor's office.
Todd Courser, a Lapeer lawyer who almost defeated state GOP chairman Bobby Schostak in February, on Thursday accused Snyder of walking away from the conservative base in an attempt to win over moderates and liberals.
"He is completely vulnerable to a credible, funded, conservative challenger and that challenger would be the beneficiary of the union vote crossing over in a Republican primary,' Courser wrote in an email to supporters.
At times treading carefully, others Republicans dismiss the talk as nothing more than that. Even some more aligned with tea-party interests doubt Snyder has to worry much about being outflanked from within.
"He's done a lot of good things. I just totally disagree on the issue of Medicaid expansion -- I think there's no question most people do," said Republican National Committeeman Dave Agema. "However, I don't think there'll be a primary. I think he'll win and I think he'll be the next governor."
He credited Snyder for signing the right-to-work law making union fees optional in unionized workplaces and naming emergency managers to run broke cities such as Detroit.
Since 1953, Michigan Republicans have met biennially at the historic Grand Hotel. The event attracts potential presidential candidates, donors and others.
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus and South Dakota Sen. John Thune were scheduled to speak later Friday night. On Saturday, the lineup includes Govs. Scott Walker of Wisconsin and Bobby Jindal of Louisiana along with Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul.