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Tim Pawlenty’s Bad Year

by Dan Burns on January 25, 2012 · 19 comments

Cast, if you will, your remembrance of past time to late 2010, when the almighty conventional political wisdom was that things were looking awfully bright for then-Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty.  He was a two-term governor who had pretty well had his way while in that office.  (Minnesotans got screwed as a result, but many political types, especially Minnesota’s corporate media, couldn’t be bothered with the facts about that.)  The Villager punditry positively drooled over the guy as an all but can’t-miss candidate for the GOP presidential nomination.  (So did another, far more important, faction.) Moreover, there was even a possibility that a drawn-out recount in Minnesota’s gubernatorial election might let him leave the state in a, from his perspective, blaze of glory, as he’d be able to sign off on extremist legislation from the newly-minted Republican-controlled Minnesota legislature.

Has the stock of anyone in American politics fallen so far, since then?  I can’t think of one.  (OK, maybe Glenn Beck, but he’s a media hack, not an elected one.)  Is any American political figure more deserving of such humiliation?  I can’t think of one in that context, either, though I agree that a great many are equally deserving.

I wrote about Pawlenty’s fall, when he was run out of the GOP race.  I enjoy blogging in general, but that post was easily the most fun thing I’ve ever had occasion to write, online.

A gentleman does not exult in the humiliation of others; I get that. But, in the case of Tim Pawlenty’s ignominious early exit from the 2012 presidential campaign, I’m not prepared to even try to mind my manners. After twenty months or so of covering him for this blog, I have come to truly, profoundly detest everything that the sorry runt represents.

And now, he’s reduced to a role as one of Mitt Romney’s toadies.  Sweet!

Timmy will be back, of course;  his hubris presents no alternative.  My guess is that he’ll run for a U.S. Senate seat, for Minnesota, in 2014.  Here’s looking forward to another disgraceful episode, in the career of one of the most abhorrent figures in Minnesota’s political history.

Oh, and check this out, from recent polling of Minnesotans.

39 percent have a favorable rating of (Pawlenty), compared to 50 percent with a negative one. His favorability rating matches the percentage of Minnesota voters who say they would vote for him for a statewide office, while 61 percent say they definitely would not.


upnorth January 25, 2012 at 9:22 pm

with your thoughts about Pawlenty. I often wonder how it is that we have come to a point where the Pawlentys of the world continue to make a living off the government they regularly demonize. Minnesota has many (I’m referring here to the Republican Party of Minnesota). Is there additional writings on this  pathology?

dan.burns January 25, 2012 at 9:46 pm

of anything, that’s really direct and comprehensive, targeting the psychological disconnects of Republicans spending their working lives in the government they purport to despise.  I did quick searches of phrases like “republicans make living from government they demonize,” but what turned up were pretty mixed bags, and generally not looking very relevant.  You can maybe try some searches of your own, if you have time and patience.  Sorry I don’t have more. One thing that does come to mind is Thomas Frank’s book, The Wrecking Crew.

Of course, Republicans in government always present themselves along the lines of “reformers from within.”

The bottom line, is that Republicans love big government, wouldn’t exist without it, as long as its primary functions are providing handouts to the rich man and his corporations, and keeping everyone else in their places.  Including warmongering.

AO January 25, 2012 at 10:23 pm

If Pawlenty only purported to despise the government he worked for, wouldn’t his record showcase his true motivation rather than the purported ideals?  If he wasn’t truly reform minded, wouldn’t liberals have a fonder view of him, maybe more along the lines of Arne?

He certainly wasn’t a champion of all conservative issues as he signed the renewable energy mandate, but he certainly did enough things to make the left angry that he should be considered to be a person that held close to his values.

He’s not Tom Emmer, but he’s not Arne either.

ericf January 26, 2012 at 12:32 am

be a conservative value? Maybe in a brief shining moment of pragmatism, Pawlenty realized he governed a state not exactly brimming with fossil fuels. Why is it against conservative values to use what we have?

The Big E January 26, 2012 at 12:46 am

Pawlenty’s problem that he created for himself is that he believed climate science was legit. Republicans all must accept as dogma that global climate change is not occurring and deviation from this dogma is heretical.

Obviously, as the teabaggers and climate denier trolls gained control of his party, he changed his tune. But too late. He had already branded himself a heretic.

AO January 26, 2012 at 12:48 am

The conservative is not for coal or for wind, he allows the individuals and companies in the market to decide.  Even among those who believe in man-made global warming, I would think there would be a sizeable contingent who would choose lower energy bills over the potential for a slight decrease in co2 as many would understand the impact from the reduced co2 would be mostly symbolic when other states and countries like China don’t also reduce their co2 in similar ways.

TwoPuttTommy January 26, 2012 at 12:41 am

“Children who are victims of failed personal responsibility are not my problem, nor are they the problem for our government.” — Majority Leader Tim Pawlenty, April 2001 – as quoted in the Aitkin Independent Newspaper (entire column here)

Pawlenty is a sad and pathetic example of today’s “Compassionate Conservative.”

ericf January 25, 2012 at 9:23 pm

…whether he challenges Dayton or Franken. Which one does Norm Coleman want? Does Dick Cheney still have his phone number to provide direction?

As I write that though, my thought is the Coleman will want revenge on Franken, and the GOP will see a Coleman as required to undo 2008, so Coleman and Pawlenty will go for their old jobs. They may have to knock down Bachmann for the nomination, but I doubt that will be difficult. Republicans will realize running her statewide is the same as conceding the election.

The Big E January 26, 2012 at 12:52 am

Eric, my man, I can’t agree with you on this’n.

The inmates run the asylum now. The teabaggers and right wing nut jobs would never endorse Norm or Pawlenty for office. They’re only chance is winning a primary and I don’t think they’d have an easy time of it.

The MNGOP will only run true blood conservatives. In other words, Klobuchar, Dayton and Franken will have it easy as they’ll face unelectable nutjobs.

Just look at Emmer for proof. Also, who is challenging A-Klo is further proof. A sane party would run someone with a chance of winning.

AO January 26, 2012 at 1:23 am

It was 43.6% to 43.2%.  Didn’t conservatives also get a lot of “true-bloods” elected to the state house and senate?

In any case, Norm and Tim aren’t ignorant about the changes in the party, as Gingrich and Romney are moving right, so too would Norm and Tim.

TonyAngelo January 26, 2012 at 1:55 am

Norm Coleman leave the private sector now that’s he finally making some decent scratch?

What I would love to see though is Michele and Timmy fighting for the GOP nomination to take on Al in 2014!

ericf January 26, 2012 at 2:11 am

However, I decided running is basically a gut decision, and I think he’ll want another shot at Franken badly enough to run again. I think the GOP will want revenge badly enough to let him run again. They’ll say and even believe it’s about electability and Coleman’s ability to raise money, but it will be about 2008.

ericf January 26, 2012 at 2:16 am

Being able to raise money counts, and while crazy people slipped through for legislature, it’s tougher for statewide office. OK, maybe not constitutional offices, but they’ll want someone who can win for governor and senator. I think Coleman’s desire to re-run 2008 will overcome his private sector income, and his ability to raise money, plus the GOP base’s desire to undo 2008, will cause them to renominate Coleman.

Pawlenty will be able to raise enough money, and will have the stature in the party, to get the nomination for governor. I can’t see him having the temperament to not run, and clearly I think Coleman will get the senate nomination. Pawlenty might want it, and if Coleman doesn’t run, he’ll go for senate.

Besides, or above all, who else do they have?

JML January 26, 2012 at 3:27 am

a revenge candidacy will go poorly for ol’ Norm. They tried desperately to paint Franken as being a potential embarrassment to MN if he became a Senator, someone who would be ineffective and a joke (telling jokes the whole way). We’re 3 years in and I think the common consensus would be that the dire predictions have not occur. (say what you will about Al, but he’s mostly kept his head down and done the work)

So what’s the argument for bringing back Norm? Superiority of GOP policy positions? Policy campaigns are frequently a tough sell as it is, and poll-testing shows GOP policy positions to be wildly unpopular right now. Throw the bums out? Always a popular strategy, but doesn’t work when you’re a former senator trying to get back in. People don’t like revenge candidacies, i think. It’s one of the reasons I think Tom Barrett is reluctant to run for governor in the WI recall.

T-paw running strikes me as more likely, because establishment Republicans (especially DC-types) will want him to. He’ll have the network to raise money from  (especially since he’s playing good soldier for the Romney campaign right now) and the kind of track record of winning in MN they’ll like. On paper he looks like a really tough opponent to face Franken. Except his personal popularity in MN has cratered through his pathetic presidential run, and the conservative base he’ll have to get through to get endorsed/win the primary will force him to tack really hard to the right, making him even less popular with the general electorate.

Gee, that’s too bad. I’m gonna miss ole T-Paw…NOT!

ericf January 26, 2012 at 2:07 am

You refer to global warming, and when faced with a problem where our individual action isn’t enough, but is still necessary, then we have a moral responsibility to d our part. That’s in addition to the practical effect of asking others to make changes while failing to do so ourselves.

Even if you don’t accept the science behind global warming (note the word “accept”, because “believe” is the wrong word) Minnesota doesn’t have fossil fuels. What choice do individuals have when theirs fuels are gasoline or nothing? Government did plenty to build the fossil fuel industries, and now it serves the state better to use the fuels we can produce ourselves. It’s not like we got where we are through the free-market. Some might like to imagine that’s what happened, but reality is otherwise.

I remain hopeful though that if fossil fuels had to pay their externalized costs, then the real costs would be apparent, and renewables would be instantly competitive in price.

AO January 26, 2012 at 2:34 am

1. Let’s call it the republican position rather than the conservative position then.  The true conservative wouldn’t be in favor of spending taxpayer money on any new form of energy discovered including oil or coal, but I suppose a conservative would limit carbon if he really feared climate change.

2. If we didn’t have a choice, we wouldn’t need the legislation.  As it is, North Dakota is suing Minnesota so that they can sell more coal power to us.  Once we do start to run out of fossil fuels and their price increases, renewables like wind, solar and nuclear become more attractive without legislation.

3. We have to use “believe” in this case as we’re talking about something that hasn’t happened yet.  We can’t “accept” that the temperature will be a certain degree until we can record it.

seano January 26, 2012 at 2:43 am

… if Norm runs again and if the GOP nominates if he does (unless he wins a primary through brute force $).  The “revenge” strategy gave them the desperate and flailing Rudy Boschwitz campaign in 1996, too.  I don’t know who runs instead — I think Pawlenty running for Senate is perhaps more likely than going back for another crack at Governor.  I think the GOP has more potential Governor candidates on the bench right now.

ericf January 26, 2012 at 2:59 am

I mean this bit: ” We can’t “accept” that the temperature will be a certain degree until we can record it.”

We have recorded it. There’s just no reasonable dispute about that. Even skeptics just dispute the cause and the solutions.

I don’t see North Dakota’s suit the free market or individual choice. They’re trying to use government power to force us to do something we think is a bad idea, just because they have coal to sell and a power plant they don’t need. If conservatives don’t support spending money even on fossil fuels, then why do they insist on doing so?  

AO January 26, 2012 at 3:05 am

No, I’m talking about the future.  

If you argue that the temperatures will rise,  you can’t accept that they have risen until you record it.

Pawlenty didn’t pass legislation under the assumption that he could solve warming in the past, he thought he could prevent it in the future.

I don’t know the details about North Dakota’s suit, just pointing out that we do have a current choice to use fossil fuels even though we can’t mine them in our own state.

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