Perhaps you heard (it was in all the papers) that Tim Pawlenty pulled out of the GOP Presidential Race yesterday.
“TPaw” is an engaging guy, a natural politician – which is both a positive and a negative – and very, very underrated as a stump speaker. And I thought he had a great shot at winning the White House, had he gotten the nomination. All the polls show that a “Generic Republican” would trounce Barack Obama if an election were held today – and Tim Pawlenty spent his whole campaign trying to set himself up as that generic conservative Republican.
But as Jazz and Ed noted, he could not get the nomination – or, more accurately, it looked unlikely that he’d be able to scare up enough donors to fund a continued race against the rest of the pack. “Generic Republican” was the wrong brand in a year when the GOP straw-poll-voting base wanted red, principled meat
I think TPaw battled a couple of misconceptions. The one from the left – that he left Minnesota with a “Six Billion Dollar Deficit” – is the easiest to dispatch. TPaw left the state with a small operating surplus and a DFL-dominated bureaucracy that, as he left office, demanded six billion dollars more than the state was taking in at the time. It was aforecast, not a budget. It was of no weight whatsoever – not that that mattered to the media, who waved the figure around as if it was a hard budget number. Pawlenty also left the state with among the lowest unemployment rates in the nation.
Harder to tackle is the flak he took from the right. Sue Jeffers – a friend and fellow MN CD4 activist, who hosts a show at the lesser Twin Cities conservative talk station, and who mounted a primary challenge form the right against the incumbent Pawlenty in 2006 – insists that Pawlenty was a “RINO”, because of a variety of policies that were, by conservative standards, miscues; his support of a state version of “cap and trade” (which failed to pass), his flirtation with the global warming orthodoxy, his “health impact fee” and a few other issues. If you were a Sullivan supporter in 2002 – and I was – then he was not the governor you wanted.
But he was the governor we got, as opposed to Roger Moe or Mike Hatch. Thank God. And while Pawlenty squibbed on several hottish-button conservative issues, he held the line on the bigdaddy animalmotha of them all; taxes and the budget. Not perfectly – but then, he faced a divided legislature until 2006, and an entirely DFL legislature, and an executive branch in which he was the sole GOP elected official, since then.
And yet he did an admirable job of holding the line on the budget for those four years, outmaneuvering the DFL to the point that they basically spun themselves into near-irrelevance in the process (the DFL endorsement is basically the kiss of death in Minnesota, and for their current chairman they had to import the chair of a “progressive” attack-PAC), and taking the path of greatest resistance; if he were a “moderate”, giving way on taxes would have been the easy route.
And yet he didn’t; he vetoed the DFL’s tax hikes every chance he got, succumbing only to the perfidy of the “Override Six”.
So he wasn’t the perfect governor, but he was paw-lenty good enough.
(Sue hates when I say that. “It’s that kind of thinking that got us into trouble” during the Bush years. There’s a point to that. But go ahead, go down the road of uncompromising purism; wave “hi” to the Libertarians and the Greens on your way past! The solution, of course, is to make sure “good enough” really is good enough – which is what we’re doing right now, in every GOP precinct in the US. And at the presidential level, I’m feeling a lot better about things now than I have in decades; if you remember the Bob Dole coronation, and years when the most conservative candidate we had was dark-horse Steve Forbes, then you should oughtta be thanking your lucky stars for the field we have).
Will TPaw run for Senate against Amy “A-Klo” Klobuchar, or sit on the sidelines and build up a war chest to run againstAl ” Stuart Smalley’ Franken? It’s a tough call; Franken’s a much weaker candidate (remember his 300-vote margin of “victory” in 2008, on Obama’s coat-tails and in a terrible year for the GOP?), but right now Hooters waitresses have longer coattails than Barack Obama; the iron may be hot for the striking now. The state GOP thinks so: chairman Tony Sutton is already talking”Pawlenty For Senate”.
Either way, I hope he does. I don’t think he got his due in this presidential race.