Is Governor Tim Pawlenty (R-MN), 50, a serious candidate for President? At this point in the game, none are more so than former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and Pawlenty.
Romney, Pawlenty baggage
Romney has an advantage over Pawlenty on net worth (about $500 million), donor list and name recognition. But, Pawlenty has less baggage than Romney, or any other credible candidate for the Republican nomination. Romney's baggage includes his change from Pro-Choice to Pro-life as he appeared to consider running for President in the Primary and the similarity of his Massachusetts healthcare plan to Obamacare. Governor Romney has explained and defended those positions and actions. The abortion issue may go away, having been dealt with in 2008, but the healthcare issue is likely to continue to be a factor in the 2012 Primary.
One bag that Pawlenty has tried to shed for the Republican Presidential Primary is his support, as Governor, for cap and trade of greenhouse gas emissions and for a mandate on energy companies to produce 25% of their power from renewable sources by 2025. Pawlenty has recanted, saying simply he was wrong. But, the issue will be a factor in the Primary, especially if the price of gas stays above $4/gallon.
Pawlenty's Working class, Midwestern roots; Family values; Professional background
Pawlenty has solid working class, Midwestern roots, having been born in St. Paul, Minnesota and raised in the meatpacking town of South St. Paul. His grandparents were immigrants, his father drove a milk truck and one of his brothers is a union steward. Pawlenty is an evangelical Christian, opposed to abortion (quoted in 2006 as favoring exceptions for rape, incest and when the life of the mother is at issue) and same sex marriage and still married to his first wife, Mary, who he met in law school. Mary has been a state court judge and Gov. Pawlenty and she have two daughters. Pawlenty is well received by social and economic conservatives and due to his tone, demeanor and style- the thinking is that he will also do relatively well with moderate Republican voters, and with independents if he gets to the general election.
Governor Pawlenty has good academic credentials, with an undergraduate degree and law degree from the University of Minnesota. After law school, Pawlenty was a criminal prosecutor and spent fifteen years at one of the top ten Minnesota law firms, becoming a partner at the now defunct Rider, Bennett, which was based in Minneapolis. Pawlenty's legal and political careers overlapped, with him putting in a stint on the Eagan City Council and then spending a decade in the Minnesota statehouse, rising to the position of majority leader. He also spent a few years working as an executive for a software company prior to being elected Governor in 2002.
Passing the Tea Party litmus test; the 2008 VP short list.
Pawlenty ran for Governor on a no new taxes pledge and appears to have kept it in large part. However, he has received criticism for dealing with state budget deficits by raising fees and making use of one-time only funds--and he helped, along with the legislature, Hennepin county commissioners avoid a referendum on a sales tax increase to fund a Minnesota Twins stadium. Nonetheless, most conservatives will give him credit for controlling spending and taxes-- and running a relatively tight fiscal ship, as governor. He is likely to pass a Tea Party litmus test.
Pawlenty was a player in the McCain Presidential campaign (National Co-Chair) and many thought he would get the nod in 2008 for Republican VP nominee, before McCain decided to go with the less experienced but more charismatic Sarah Palin. Then Congressman Rahm Emanuel (D-IL) squared off against Pawlenty in a June, 2008 Sunday morning national TV discussion, and Emanuel subsequently advised this journalist that Pawlenty would be a formidable VP candidate.
Presidential timber and charisma? The Right Stuff to make the top tier?
Pawlenty was re-elected Governor in 2006, but decided not to seek re-election in 2010, apparently so he could focus on a run for President. For someone who has not held federal office before, Pawlenty comes across as knowledgeable on federal issues and generally handles economic and cultural issues well. He is running as a consistent economic, social and national defense conservative.
Questions will be raised as to whether Pawlenty is Presidential timber, especially in the foreign policy arena, and whether he has sufficient charisma to beat President Obama. Because of his low name recognition, he may have difficulty raising sufficient funds to be competitive in the Primary. But, he has the right background, experience, credentials, positions on the issues, absence of negatives, and trust by the Republican Party establishment and conservative base to have a good chance to put together the organization, funding and message necessary to get his party's nomination. As. of now, Tim Pawlenty's pluses far outweigh his minuses, putting him in the top tier of candidates (along with Romney and perhaps Governor Mitch Daniels) to become the Republican nominee for President.