Sunday, August 14, 2011

Pawlenty Shaken When Iowans Not Stirred

Forgive the 007 reference contained in the headline; former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty will never be James Bond. If Pawlenty had been cast in one of the movies about Ian Fleming's superstar spy, it would not be in the leading role, though he might have been listed in the credits as "accountant's less interesting friend in a crowd scene".

Pawlenty was always in a mob, never able to emerge from the throng of politicians littering the Iowa landscape the past few months. Political strategists can give you many interesting theories on why this 
Official photo of Governor Tim Pawlenty (R-MN).Image via Wikipedia
Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty
happened, but it wasn't complicated. Pawlenty never seized anyone's interest and remained a somewhat unknown, somewhat distrusted, outsider in his own party.

Just as Mitt Romney's Massachusetts governorship raises concerns for conservatives, so too does Pawlenty's two terms as the Minnesota chief executive. When Republicans think of Minnesota politics they think of Hubert Humphrey, Walter Mondale and Al Franken. The blue state is not a likely origin for a GOP Presidential nominee and if a Republican is elected by that group then he is suspect. It's little wonder Pawlenty is an early casualty in this contest.

Pawlenty was outlasted by both Michigan Congressman Thaddeus McCotter and former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson. If you could pick both McCotter and Johnson out of a police line-up then you're likely a political insider. Yet, as of 11 PM on August 14th, they remain and Pawlenty, with much more national television exposure, has exited the political stage.

McCotter and Johnson remaining in the race could be attributed to their lesser expectations or to their superior senses of humor. They both downplayed the straw poll well in advance. Johnson chose not participating in the event, while McCotter used the occasion to meet more voters and play guitar in his family band.

Johnson, referred to by Rolling Stone Magazine as the "GOP's Invisible Candidate," and McCotter, the candidate I'd most like to sit down with and have a beer, are not as well known as Pawlenty. Yet, I believe that both of them will wear better on GOP voters than the former Minnesota Governor. Johnson and McCotter are both plain spoken and hold strong positions on issues, while Governor Pawlenty was "nuanced" to a high level of ineffectiveness. you are a GOP Presidential candidate and you are notorious for being the most "bland", "vanilla" or "white bread" of the entire group, then there is a problem. Even worse, Pawlenty was often described as nice. As all Southerners know, when a person is referred to as "nice" it may mean there is nothing bad to say, but it means nothing good remains to be said, either.

The discussion of Pawlenty's apparent support for some form of carbon tax credits or even his 2006 statement that "the era of small government is over" didn't get anyone excited until the latter was quoted by political rival Representative Michelle Bachmann (R-MN) in the Iowa GOP debate. Bachmann not only beat Pawlenty in the debate, she also finished first in the straw poll, a win that Pawlenty wanted desperately. He finished a distant third behind fellow Minnesotan Bachmann and Congressman Ron Paul (R-TX).

Pawlenty was an early favorite of the mainstream media, but surely this begs a pertinent question: Other than the media and former Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue, who had Tim Pawlenty as a first choice for President?

The early media support may have actually hurt Pawlenty with conservatives. This inferred backing increased Pawlenty's questionable status much faster than it raised voters' curiosity. In a political party that has questions about Mitt Romney's conservative qualifications after four years in the national spotlight, no one should want to be Romney Lite. Yet, this was Pawlenty's distinction and he did nothing to reposition himself or his message.

So as Texas Governor Rick Perry enters the race, Tim Pawlenty leaves. We never got to know Pawlenty well and he may have lost, but we can say - all together now - "He was so nice."

by Ken Carroll

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