The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

Why Is Tim Pawlenty Losing?

Posted on | July 19, 2011 | 25 Comments

Walter Shapiro at The New Republic:

But, midway through the interview, desperate for a headline-making morsel about his home-state rival, I asked Pawlenty to respond to the assessment that he was the establishment and [Michele] Bachmann was the outsider in Minnesota politics. To my surprise, Pawlenty sprang to life. He spent the next four minutes vehemently disputing my premise. “If you look at Minnesota, I don’t think you can define anything I did there as establishment,” he said, methodically ticking off his eight-year record as the militantly anti-tax governor of a state dominated by “a multigenerational, Humphrey-esque, liberal culture.” At times, a thin veneer of anger crept into his voice, even though all he would say about Bachmann, the original flashpoint of the question, was this: “She’s really an outsider, of course. I don’t think there’s much dispute about that.” . . .
With a weak GOP field, it is a mistake to write off Pawlenty more than six months before the Iowa caucuses. Yet it is also undeniable that the former Minnesota governor is in serious trouble. After a month on the Pawlenty beat — during which I spent time on the road with him in New Hampshire, toured his blue-collar hometown of South St. Paul, and delved into his Minnesota record — I came to appreciate the tragedy of his situation. . . . [R]ather than solidifying his position as the credible right-wing alternative to Mitt Romney, he finds himself distracted by thunder on his own right in the form of Bachmann. Why is it that Tim Pawlenty — for whom everything appeared perfect in theory — cannot seem to break through?

The most obvious answer comes far into Shapiro’s story:

Reelected by just 21,000 votes in November 2006, Pawlenty two months later made renewable energy one of the four cornerstones of his State of the State address to the legislature. “Minnesota can’t reverse global climate change by ourselves,” he declared. “But we can do our part and help lead the way. Our energy plan will significantly reduce the amount of carbon we put in the atmosphere. I look forward to working with the Democrats and the Republicans to pass and sign comprehensive historic renewable energy legislation this year.” Pawlenty endorsed cap-and-trade, and his far-reaching environmental agenda called for Minnesota to derive 25 percent of its electricity from wind power and solar energy by 2025.

Pawlenty tries to dimiss his embrace of global-warming theory as a silly mistake, but for him to have taken up a signature issue of liberalism after 2006 — i.e., after the disastrous mid-term election that made Nancy Pelosi Speaker of the House — looks an awful lot like opportunism.

Republicans were on the defensive, and Pawlenty grabbed hold of “renewable energy” as a way to appease liberals. Or that’s what it looks like, anyway, and Pawlenty has never given any explanation that would convince a skeptic it was anything else.

What adviser or consultant told Pawlenty that “climate change” was his ticket to success? It doesn’t matter. The consultant who gives bad advice collects a paycheck for doing so. The guy who pays for bad advice is just a chump.

Smitty is fond of T-Paw and I suppose he will resent this smack-around of his guy. My own feeling has always been that Pawlenty is simply too bland to match up against Obama. In the words of Vox Day, T-Paw has “has all the charisma of a corpse on quaaludes.”

Don’t worry, Smitty, Vox takes his shots at Herman Cain, too, but his real target is Rick Perry, whom he calls “the third Bush.” And I agree with Shapiro that it too early — six months before the Iowa caucuses — to write off Pawlenty or anyone else.


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