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Tpaw's bad week



Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty struggled this week. Photo by David McNew/Getty Images

Minnesota Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty, after making a series of smart strategic moves over the past few months in advance of an expected run for president in 2012, has struggled on the national stage in the past week.

First, Pawlenty waded into a special election in Upstate New York on behalf of Conservative party nominee Doug Hoffman -- a move that came directly on the heels of former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's decision to endorse Hoffman over state Assemblywoman Dede Scozzafava (R).

"We cannot send more politicians to Washington who wear the Republican jersey on the campaign trail, but then votes like Democrats in Congress on issues like card check and taxes," Pawlenty said in a statement announcing his decision.

Then, in an appearance on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" on Monday, Pawlenty seemed to make an unforced error by calling into question whether Maine Sen. Olympia Snowe (R) truly belonged within the Republican party.

"If Olympia Snowe disagrees with us on one or two things there's room for her of course," said Pawlenty. "But if she disagrees on everything then that's a problem."

In retrospect, neither move was a smart one from a strategic point of view. Hoffman fell short in the special election and Pawlenty had to reach out to Snowe in the wake of his comments to make clear that his belief was that the party was a big tent rather than a small one.

Pawlenty detractors are sure to see these two incidents as evidence of a transparent attempt to tack to his ideological right in advance of a presidential primary process that is dominated by conservative activists.

Defenders of the governor insist that his motives had little to do with 2012. In the case of New York's 23rd, he felt compelled to get involved once he became aware of the selection process -- a group of 11 county chairs picked the nominee -- and Scozzafava's support for the Employee Free Choice Act while with Snowe it was less premeditated attempt to appease the right than simple mistake by a candidate somewhat new to the national stage.

And, they add, Pawlenty, as vice chairman of the Republican Governors Association, deserves some credit for the victories in Virginia and New Jersey this week as well as the Minnesota kickoff of his Freedom First PAC last night.

Fair enough.

But, regardless of why Pawlenty did what he did, his actions over the last week reveal how difficult and fraught with peril the national political scene is for candidates who are new to it.

Running for president is not easy. Let's not forget that President Barack Obama was a unsteady and, at times, uninspiring, candidate on the stump and a long-winded debater when he entered the 2008 presidential races.

Pawlenty still has more than two years to grow into the role he is running for. And, now is the time to make mistakes -- when only a few super-nerdy political junkies (yours truly very much included) and a handful of party activists are paying close attention.

Still, Pawlenty's past week shows why candidates who have run before tend to do better the second time around -- particularly on the Republican side.

By Chris Cillizza  |  November 5, 2009; 1:45 PM ET
Categories:  Eye on 2012  
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Comments

Pawlenty still has more than two years to grow into the role he is running for. And, now is the time to make mistakes -- when only a few super-nerdy political junkies (yours truly very much included) and a handful of party activists are paying close attention.

==

Why are you paying any attention to this guy? He's a fool.

And unelectable.

Posted by: GoldAndTanzanite | November 6, 2009 7:11 PM | Report abuse

(Did Sarah really get that smile from Hudson's Bay Company when they dumped their old group of catalog models?)

==

That phony smile of hers reminds of me of the pictures one used to see in Radio Shack catalogs (now Best Buy) showing uh people who've put together a rock band and are purportedly rocking out in front of an audience.

OK, now try to look like you're swaying to the music. Hold that pose ...

Posted by: GoldAndTanzanite | November 6, 2009 3:29 PM | Report abuse

As a Minnesota resident, I can tell you from experience that Pawlenty is not a moderate. He may appear to be one relative to the current GOP base, but he isn't an actual moderate likely to appeal to independents.

He talks all moderate on TV and radio, but if you track his votes (in the Lege) and his signing/veto record as governor, he's firmly right-wing.

He has appointed some rather less than stellar people to lead his administrative departments (Carol Molnau at DOT being just the most spectacularly bad one), and his unilateral 'unallotment' of the current biennial budget should give anyone worried about run-away executive power a significant pause.

As it happens, I lived in TX during W's governorship - and I'm not kidding when I say the similarities are troubling: a middling-competent governor who believes in executive power grabs and yet poses as a "compassionate conservative" to position for national office.

Pawlenty's clearly ambitious, but I'd say to CC that T-paw is in over his head, not just wet behind the ears.

Posted by: RalfW | November 6, 2009 2:46 PM | Report abuse

Gov TJP won't let facts get in the way of a nice partisan shot. This time he's picking up the meme about the flu vaccine & gov't healthcare. Unfortunately for TJP, the vaccine isn't produced by the gov't, but by private enterprise:

http://minnesota.publicradio.org/collections/special/columns/polinaut/archive/2009/11/fact_check_pawl.shtml

"Pawlenty is correct that the federal government did promise as many as 120 million doses of the H1N1 flu vaccine. But he's incorrect in suggesting that the federal government is responsible for manufacturing the vaccine. That falls on private drug companies."

Posted by: bsimon1 | November 6, 2009 2:24 PM | Report abuse

"I will find his middle name so that I can refer to him by the three initial standard."

Boredome strikes. Wikipedia says James. Timothy James Pawlenty, TJP for the TLA set.

Posted by: bsimon1 | November 6, 2009 12:31 PM | Report abuse

"To paraphrase Colin Luther Powell, last time I checked, Pawlenty was not on the membership committee of the GOP. This guy has no say-so on Snowe being a Republican. The Olympian does not need to check in with him on anything. Good grief, this space is the only forum in the blogosphere that gives He Who Looks Like He's Falling Asleep a second thought. Posted by: broadwayjoe "

This is a column that thought Fred, (sleepy) Thompson was going to energize the Republican race just two Novembers ago.

Why is it, by the way, that the whole slate of wannabees for the last several election cycles acted like they took facial expression lessons from Buster Keaton? (Did Sarah really get that smile from Hudson's Bay Company when they dumped their old group of catalog models?)

Posted by: ceflynline | November 5, 2009 9:20 PM | Report abuse

"Pawlenty detractors are sure to see these two incidents as evidence of a transparent attempt to tack to his ideological right in advance of a presidential primary process that is dominated by conservative activists."

The three initial standard is really for Democrats, since the Republicans tend to be two name kinda guys, or one name monikers.

You know, Alf or Ike, WW, HH. TD, RR, Shrub. Posseurs like 41 go withfour, GHWB, nice because the condensed versionGWB was 43.

TP works fine for themiraculous minnesotan, but MF, Minnesota fatuous works well two when you are talking the three mooseketeers, MH, MF, and MR. Add Darlin'tanian to the mix and you have all the elements of a Dumas Farce. She can be introduced to them when they all show up to confront her on her ditzy claims to be out Mooseketeer hunting.

Give her any more botox and she can also be the man in the iron mask.

Posted by: ceflynline | November 5, 2009 9:07 PM | Report abuse

"Pawlenty detractors are sure to see these two incidents as evidence of a transparent attempt to tack to his ideological right in advance of a presidential primary process that is dominated by conservative activists."

THIS TP detractor thinks that what it really demonstrates is that this schlemiel needs a keeper just to go out for coffee. As introduced to the world he was supposed to be a bit of a moderate. The entire rest of the present field is so far to the right that they could stand shoulder to shoulder on the lip of the right hand gutter at a bowling lane, although, since they would all be busy trying to get to the right of their competitors they would rapidly run through the right hand wall of the building it was in. Given the central two thirds of the republican Party as his bailiwick, he joined the crowd on the head of the pin that the party wants to be the base of its big tent.

He apparently learned nothing from Giuliani, and hasn't quite nearly enough money to try to beat Rudi911's record money spent on delegates not won.

It appears that, given the results of tuesdays mostly meaningless elections, the republicans have determined that they have a great way to win back control of Congress in 2010.

Get Corzine and deeds to run for Congress in as many districts across the country as possible.

If they can get each of them registered to run for Congress in a district currently held by a Democrat then they can pick up a total of one hundred seats in congress and one hundred seats in the Senate.

Their math, of course, could probably use some tinkering, but their strategy is a winner, don't you think?

Posted by: ceflynline | November 5, 2009 8:58 PM | Report abuse

Here's Pawlenty's latest gimmick:

Plan the next budget cycle's spending on the prior budget cycle's revenue. What kind of mental midget thinks looking backwards is the way to move forward? Can you imagine running a business, planning next year's budget on last year's revenue? Ignore projected growth (or lack thereof). Ignore changes in business plans. Just assume that past is prologue & merrily go own your way.

http://minnesota.publicradio.org/collections/special/columns/polinaut/archive/2009/11/pawlenty_wants_2.shtml

Posted by: bsimon1 | November 5, 2009 5:14 PM | Report abuse

This is not because CC thinks Pawlenty will matter, it is because (a) Pawlenty has decided he will matter and has assembled a political crew (of Bush/Cheney retreads) to make it so and (b) CC thinks the people you have around might make a big difference.

So we watch, we watch these people self destruct and this is the fun part.

Naturally we keep track, at least I do, of political people on the left. But for me, that is no fun at all, that is serious.

So, how right leaning voters react to the permanent tension between very smart corporate interests and the ignorant demagogues is fascinating. John McCain did not open Pandora's Box (news flash) by pimping Palin, this tension, the central contradiction of the right has always been there. But now it is up the flag pole, flapping in the breeze.


Posted by: shrink2 | November 5, 2009 5:08 PM | Report abuse

"Let's not forget that President Barack Obama was a unsteady and, at times, uninspiring, candidate on the stump and a long-winded debater when he entered the 2008 presidential races."

Oh, really? Did you miss the "race" speech, the message of hope before 250,000 in Germany (on a night Mac couldn't fill a diner in Dayton), the long term political TV message just before election day, the election night speech, the...? And are you--for even a millisecond--really comparing this character to former President of the Harvard Law Review, author of two or three best selling books, and former U.S. Senator, Barack H. Obama?

Posted by: broadwayjoe | November 5, 2009 4:50 PM | Report abuse

To paraphrase Colin Luther Powell, last time I checked, Pawlenty was not on the membership committee of the GOP. This guy has no say-so on Snowe being a Republican. The Olympian does not need to check in with him on anything.

Good grief, this space is the only forum in the blogosphere that gives He Who Looks Like He's Falling Asleep a second thought.

Posted by: broadwayjoe | November 5, 2009 4:40 PM | Report abuse

"Both parties are full of ideologues, the conservatives want to throw out the moderates and the liberals want to throw out the blue dogs.

Posted by: JRM2"

Liberals want the blue dogs to change their voting patterns, not get rid of them altogether. They realize that a Conservative Democrat beats having a Republican.

Posted by: DDAWD | November 5, 2009 4:38 PM | Report abuse

Both parties are full of ideologues, the conservatives want to throw out the moderates and the liberals want to throw out the blue dogs.

==

Problem with this sagacious analysis is that what is defined as "the middle" is only so in the sense of lying between the two parties; in any rational analysis the American political center is nevertheless much to far to the right to be effective or much of any good in the long term.

Posted by: GoldAndTanzanite | November 5, 2009 4:02 PM | Report abuse

Both parties are full of ideologues, the conservatives want to throw out the moderates and the liberals want to throw out the blue dogs.

Posted by: JRM2 | November 5, 2009 3:59 PM | Report abuse

I saw that interview on MSNBC and his meaning was clear. Olympia Snow did not belong in "his" republican party. Haley Barbour cleaned the party talking point up in the next segment, but I believe this is a huge insight into the intraparty fight that is coming in 2010.

Posted by: kristilj | November 5, 2009 3:50 PM | Report abuse

I would argue that the difficulty in getting the nomination is in being perceived as inauthentic. If it's just posing for the right, he's a dead man (see Romney, Mitt, 2008).

If we think long ball, not winning the 2012 nomination has potential. The Republican party has a long history of nominating the guy who finished second the last time.

BB

Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | November 5, 2009 3:35 PM | Report abuse

http://www.fivethirtyeight.com/2009/11/independent-voters-and-empty.html

It's strange that Chris C seems to be somewhat close to Nate Silver, but often partakes in the shallow analysis that's excoriated in this column.

Posted by: DDAWD | November 5, 2009 3:31 PM | Report abuse

"If Olympia Snowe disagrees with us on one or two things there's room for her of course," said Pawlenty.

This is straight from Survivor, a candle-lit aside. Some loser makes condescending remarks about the prospects of the person who votes him out of the game an episode later (not that I have ever watched, of course, I just read about it, honest).

Or put another way, Al Haig was not in control, but he thought he was.

Posted by: shrink2 | November 5, 2009 3:28 PM | Report abuse

Chris,

I agree 110%! THIS is the time to make those neophyte mistakes, but T-Paw is going to have to learn from those mistakes as well, lest he make new, more serious ones.

He CANNOT out-Palin Palin. He shouldn't even try! First of all, a physically attractive woman can get away with far more than a man, plain or otherwise. This is not sexist; it's the way life is.

It's the centre that wins elections--a common sense lesson he should have drawn fron NY-23 BEFORE he opened his mouth wide enough to drive a forklift through on 'Morning Joe'. Scarborough even asked him repeatedly if Olympia Snowe hadn't proven that she was a loyal Republican for her part of the country, but he weaselled out of those repeated questions.

What he should do is try to maintain his nice-guy, common-sense persona. and try to hold to the middle. It worked for McDonnell, except in T-Paw's case it's genuine.

Those who don't learn the lessons of history are condemned to repeat them!

Posted by: sverigegrabb | November 5, 2009 3:22 PM | Report abuse


Shouldn't this thread be headlined:

T-PAW DECLAWED.

Or:

THE FALLING: T-Paw and Caribou Pussycat Left with Scratch.

***

ATTENTION A.G. HOLDER: Where is the DOJ Civil Rights Division investigation into the covert use of silent, harmful microwave and laser directed energy weapons on unjustly targeted Americans and their families by a Bush-legacy federal-local "multi-agency coordinated action program" that continues to commit civil and human rights violations under Team Obama -- including government-enabled, GPS-activated, covert "community stalking" harassment, vandalism and other acts of domestic terrorism?

http://nowpublic.com/world/gestapo-usa-govt-funded-vigilante-network-terrorizes-america OR http://NowPublic.com/scrivener RE: "GESTAPO USA"

Posted by: scrivener50 | November 5, 2009 3:19 PM | Report abuse

@ĐAWD: It's gotten bizarre. I mean, the lesson from Tuesday could not be more clear: the two guys who gravitated to the center won their elections, the guy who went to the right lost, despite the unrestrained efforts and the full power of the right-wing money/falsehood machine.

Yet Republicans are interpreting it precisely backwards.

Posted by: GoldAndTanzanite | November 5, 2009 3:13 PM | Report abuse

Have you guys ever seen this in the history of political parties? Where a struggling party starts SHRINKING its tent?

This just strikes me as patently stupid. Am I being leveled by the Republicans? I mean, this isn't the smartest bunch of guys, but I never figured them to be downright retarded. But driving out the moderates is really, really stupid from my point of view.

Posted by: DDAWD | November 5, 2009 3:07 PM | Report abuse

shrink2 writes
"I love the "unforced error" metaphor.
Sports and politics."

As Mark in Austin notes, TPaw's other unforced error was the unallotment move this summer. I think he expected the Dems to sue him, so he could claim partisan attacks. Instead it is private citizens who are suing him, after losing their healthcare due to budget cuts.

http://www.minnpost.com/stories/2009/10/29/12998/first_suit_filed_challenging_pawlenty_unallotment_decisions

Posted by: bsimon1 | November 5, 2009 2:56 PM | Report abuse

The biggest misstep was wading into the NY-23rd AFTER Palin. It looked weak (probably because it was) and then when he lost he looked even more foolish.

And why should he get credit for the elections in VA and NJ? Did he hit Deeds with the stupid stick after the debate? Or maybe he was the one who told Corzine that the public wouldn't mind that he didn't accomplish anything that he promised he would? I mean hey it worked for him in Minnesota.

Posted by: AndyR3 | November 5, 2009 2:51 PM | Report abuse

At last a suggestion that Pawlenty isn't half-divine. I mean, this is a guy who plays second fiddle to Sarah Palin, he's not going anywhere nationally.

Posted by: GoldAndTanzanite | November 5, 2009 2:49 PM | Report abuse

So...I hear Carrie Prejean has a sex tape.

Just tossing that out there. Back to your regular conversations.

Posted by: DDAWD | November 5, 2009 2:48 PM | Report abuse

This will be the first of many for Pawlenty. Should he receive the R endorsement in 2012, the last bad day will be when he loses his home state to any D this side of George McGovern. (He would lose, btw.)

While we Minnesotans will still give him 50s in approval (cuz we're just so darn nice), everyone was relieved when he decided not to run for reelection.

Posted by: prairiepopulist | November 5, 2009 2:41 PM | Report abuse

Pawlenty is out of his league. He is a climber, but others climb better.

Posted by: margaretmeyers | November 5, 2009 2:33 PM | Report abuse

Palin Rising!

Posted by: mnteng | November 5, 2009 2:24 PM | Report abuse

He looks a little like Manu Ginobli.

Bsimon says he signed the spending bills then vetoed the revenue bills then did not call a special session to reconcile the shortfall. Instead, he used the emergency powers of a state executive to "shift" spending.

That totally negates the need to even have a lege, so a lawsuit has ensued. This, for me, a lawyer, is a more interesting misstep by TP. I will find his middle name so that I can refer to him by the three initial standard.

Posted by: mark_in_austin | November 5, 2009 2:09 PM | Report abuse

Pawlenty's fumbles are what happens when you allow yourself to become a clown and puppet for the rightwing wrecking crew.

It's now become the primary objective of the loudmouth winger echo chamber and fringenuts to shoot at the feet of moderates until they dance themselves over the edge of reason and become unelectable in a general.

Posted by: drindl | November 5, 2009 2:08 PM | Report abuse

I must have missed the memo from the RNC that CC used as a source for this item. Then again, Michael Steele is known for an unforced error or two.

BB

Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | November 5, 2009 2:04 PM | Report abuse

I love the "unforced error" metaphor.
Sports and politics.

Posted by: shrink2 | November 5, 2009 1:52 PM | Report abuse

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