Nel's New Day

June 27, 2011

Tim Pawlenty Fading

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 5:08 PM

Yesterday, The New York Times published an extensive piece on Jon Huntsman, but along the way Matt Bai had a few things to say about the other Republican presidential candidates. According to Bai, the field is currently made up of “insurgents” who are running with Tea Party philosophies and alternatives who are somewhere behind Mitt Romney. The first four subjects addressed in this series have been insurgents: Rick Perry, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, and Michele Bachmann. Tim Pawlenty is an alternative, a contrast to Bachmann, the top insurgent right now and the other candidate from his home state of Minnesota. In being an alternative, he’ll try to show himself as highly electable and experienced as Romney but better in some way, but he’s got a long way to go.

Pawlenty holds similar views to other conservatives: keep all the guns you want, five educators merit pay (and not much), dump the unions, support right-to-lifers, reinstate capital punishment, get rid of any nationalized health care plan, don’t allow same-sex marriages, return to “don’t ask don’t tell” in the military, etc. But he doesn’t show himself rabid about it. He doesn’t get lots of things wrong, but he has a certain amount of baggage, statements that he has to deny in a believable manner.

He started doing in a January interview when he explained that he now believes that the nation was “founded under God.” He said, “I started with the perspective of someone who says that faith is separate from public law and public service; it really isn’t.” Of course, the interview was with a conservative Christian group, and he was trying to sell his book.

Pawlenty also supported TARP Act (Troubled Asset Relief Program) in 2008 but last year said he wasn’t speaking for himself but instead “speaking solely as a surrogate for John McCain [2008 GOP presidential nominee].”  In addition he felt he had to apologize for his past support of a cap on greenhouse-gas emissions. “I was wrong. It was a mistake and I’m sorry,” he pleaded at the New Hampshire debate.

Minnesota’s proximity to Iowa is somewhat awkward for Pawlenty. Although he might be expected to have a strong showing in the neighboring state, the Iowa Republican caucus is one of the most conservative in the nation, and the state is currently enamored with Michele Bachmann even if she has again shown herself as geographically challenged. During her campaign kickoff in Waterloo (IA), she touted a Waterloo native, John Wayne, as one of her inspirations. Actually, it’s the serial killer John Wayne Gacy who came from Waterloo.

Pawlenty does follow the Tea Party belief that government should take from the poor and give to the rich. He backs making all investment income—interest, dividends, gains, etc.—tax free, adding $14 billion to the deficit in one year. That way, 57,000 households making $1 million or more would avoid paying any income tax, more than doubling the current number of millionaires not paying income taxes. Pawlenty would also lower taxes on corporations from 35% to 15% and “sunset” all government regulations unless Congress votes to keep them. Pawlenty’s tax plan would cost $10 trillion by 2021. As governor, he didn’t have a good record of fiscal management; Minnesota is still among the ten worst states in overall tax climate, running eighth from the bottom in 2011.

Just because Pawlenty doesn’t talk as much as Bachmann doesn’t mean that he hasn’t made his share of gaffes. A doozey is this statement: “If you can find a good or service on the Internet, then the federal government probably doesn’t need to be doing it,” Pawlenty said. “The post office, the government printing office, Amtrak, Fannie [Mae] and Freddie [Mac], were all built in a time in our country when the private sector did not adequately provide those products. That’s no longer the case.” The Google Test would also eliminate the need for government to pay for U.S.soldiers, military weapons, the FBI, law enforcement, firefighters, food safety, road construction, arbitration, Social Security, Medicare, and more. In fact, implementing the Pawlenty Google Test would wipe out  “presidential candidate” and “Tim Pawlenty.”

His Perry approach toward the stimulus (first denounce it and then take billions of dollars  for his state) also hit a glitch in his first trip to persuade New Hampshire voters to support him. In touring the electronics company Cirtronics and praising their coming back from near disaster, he questioned the benefit of the stimulus. “It’s maybe had a little temporary effect,’’ Pawlenty said. “But it comes with big negative consequences down the road. It sets a really bad precedent.’’ Cirtronics received $935,000 in federal stimulus money to keep people employed. Minnesota used $2.3 billion in federal stimulus money to balance its budget during the two-year budget cycle ending this June and received a total of $5.9 billion from the federal government.

During his trip to New Hampshire for CNN’s presidential debate, Pawlenty made a controversial (bad?) choice of host for a house party. Ray Shakir calls President Obama a “jungle alien” and Hillary Clinton “Osama’s dream girl.” He also labeled some disabled children “uneducatable” and thus undeserving of taxpayer-funded schooling.

Pawlenty’s relationship with Frank Vennes, Jr. may also come back to haunt him. Vennes was a major donor to both Pawlenty and Bachmann, apparently with money that Vennes got channeling money from a Ponzi scheme that targeted faith-based charities, pastors, and ministers, removing much of their life savings. Both presidential candidates sought pardons for Vennes, hoping to erase the taint of the crimes that first landed him in prison. In April, Vennes was indicted on fraud and money-laundering charges in a U.S. District Court in Minnesota.

Other than not being particularly likable, Pawlenty’s biggest problem may be his lack of resources to compete across 50 states against the better-funded machines of Romney, Huntsman, and Bachmann. People working for Pawlenty’s campaign, including his top two strategists and other advisers, are earning either nothing of under $1,000 a month. More information will be released in July’s mandatory statement of expenditures.

With the lack of publicity and the strong promotion of several other Republican presidential candidates, Pawlenty seems destined to be footnote in history.

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