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Posted at 12:25 PM ET, 01/ 7/2011

Pawlenty's defense of Palin

By Aaron Blake

Tim Pawlenty takes aim at critics of Sarah Palin in his new book, which is set to released Tuesday and a copy of which was obtained by the Fix.

And in doing so, the former Minnesota governor seems to be saying something about his own blue-collar appeal as he weighs a run -- perhaps against the former Alaska governor and 2008 vice presidential nominee -- for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination.

The book, called "Courage to Stand," represents the latest in a series of steps Pawlenty has taken to emerge on the national stage in advance of his near-certain presidential bid in 2012.

And the book is particularly kind to Palin, devoting several pages to her pick as vice president in 2008 (Pawlenty was on the short list for the spot). Pawlenty, who often plays up his everyman image and calls himself a "Sam's Club Republican," commiserates with another candidate from a less traditional background. The governor says Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) made a "courageous" pick with Palin, but that the senator was doomed regardless of his running mate.

Here's a sampling of the pro-Palin comments in the Pawlenty book:

* "Those who blame the loss that November, even in part, on [McCain's] choice of Sarah Palin as running mate lose sight of the big picture. In truth, it didn't matter whom he would have picked. Once the economy collapsed, Barack Obama was going to win that election."

* On his conversation with McCain after the pick was announced: "I told him it was a gutsy pick. A good pick."

* "On the basis of executive leadership experience alone, [Palin] had many times the experience of McCain's opponent."

* On anti-Palin rhetoric: "The presumption behind such comments is that if you don't fit a certain mold, somehow you're incapable. Baloney. You don't accomplish what Sarah Palin accomplished if you're incapable."

* "So this idea that you can only be wise and correct if you are from one of the great educational or political institutions on the East Coast -- I just don't buy that."

This line of argument works for Pawlenty because, to an extent, he's talking about himself.

Pawlenty didn't attend an Ivy League or private school (though the University of Minnesota -- FixAaron's alma mater -- is pretty great!), he came from a blue collar family, and doesn't have the elite pedigree of a Mitt Romney, a Mitch Daniels or a Newt Gingrich.

In fact, 10 years ago, Pawlenty was a state representative getting nudged out of Minnesota's Senate race by Vice President Dick Cheney and shunned by party leaders in the state's governor's race.

But coming from a Midwestern state and not having many of the usual bullet points on his resume could be an asset for Pawlenty, who is barely known to most Americans and needs to create a niche for himself.

If Palin's ascendance and Mike Huckabee's 2008 win in Iowa have shown us anything, it's that there's a premium on being a regular guy/gal in politics right now.

If Palin or Huckabee don't run or wind up faltering in the presidential race, Pawlenty could pounce on the "regular American" vote.

Pawlenty isn't exactly from the same wing of the Republican Party as Palin -- she has much bigger following and is more rooted in the tea party movement. But he has taken strides in recent years to reinforce his conservative credentials and make himself a qualified choice for the party's base.

Pawlenty gets another residual benefit by playing nice with Palin. If she decides not to run, her endorsement will be coveted by everyone who is in the race. Pawlenty's kind words about Palin certainly can't hurt his push for an endorsement from her -- if it eventually comes to that.

By Aaron Blake  | January 7, 2011; 12:25 PM ET
Categories:  Eye on 2012  
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