Consensus forming around Pawlenty?

posted at 12:36 pm on June 20, 2012 by Ed Morrissey

While the Romney campaign rushed yesterday to reassure Republicans that it takes Marco Rubio seriously as a running-mate contender, two new stories overnight appear to indicate that the focus has shifted to another candidate.  Both the Wall Street Journal and Politico report from their sources that Tim Pawlenty has emerged as a front-runner for the VP slot, and that Pawlenty’s middle-class appeal might be his most attractive aspect for Mitt Romney.  His surrogate appearances have drawn rave reviews within the campaign, a theme found in both reports:

WSJ: Meantime, attention increasingly is turning to Tim Pawlenty, the former Minnesota governor and onetime Romney primary-season foe. Of elected officials who joined Mr. Romney in a recent six-state campaign tour, Mr. Pawlenty stood out to party leaders as they handicapped who might be chosen to join the GOP ticket.

Privately, some Romney campaign officials have offered that Mr. Pawlenty has impressed them with his work as a Romney representative on the campaign trail and with the press. “He’s never done a bad interview” while acting as a campaign spokesman, said one Republican operative.

Politico: Tim Pawlenty has jumped to the top of the vice presidential shortlist of several Mitt Romney advisers after emerging as the most effective — and well-liked — surrogate for the GOP nominee-to-be, according to several Republicans familiar with campaign deliberations.

The former Minnesota governor has impressed top Romney officials with his winning onstage presence at a grueling roster of Republican events throughout the country and with his low-maintenance personal style that has made him a favorite with the campaign’s tight-knit inner circle at the Boston headquarters.

And both note that Pawlenty’s humble background and solid middle-class status could help buffer some of the expected class-warfare attacks from Barack Obama:

WSJ: Moreover, Mr. Pawlenty’s background as the son of a truck driver from South St. Paul, Minn., is a potential counterweight to Mr. Romney’s wealth. The former governor also could help Mr. Romney in the battleground states of Minnesota and neighboring Iowa, both of which the campaign sees as potential pickups from President Barack Obama’s 2008 column.

Politico: Several top Republicans said that as the hockey-playing son of a blue-collar worker, and a longtime champion of connecting with what he has called “Sam’s Club Republicans,” Pawlenty would be comfortable campaigning among working-class voters in a way that Romney never will be.

Politico also points to Pawlenty’s evangelical Christian faith as another plus for a Republican ticket, although I see that as less of a distinguishing feature.  Most of the other candidates for the position are either evangelicals or Catholics (Rubio and Bobby Jindal specifically), and either would suffice for that purpose.  A Catholic might be an even better reminder of the attack on religious liberty launched by the Obama administration via the HHS mandate.  Pawlenty keeps his faith low key but does discuss it comfortably on occasion, which may come in handy in the next few months.

In many ways, Pawlenty is a traditional running-mate option.  He carries some geographical heft in an area where Romney needs to compete (the Midwest, especially Iowa and Wisconsin), has a, er, sterling resumé as a two-term Governor of Minnesota, could take over the top job in a heartbeat if necessary, and won’t overshadow the nominee on the campaign trail.  Having watched Pawlenty up close as a chief executive for eight years, I know he’s a highly competent and tough campaigner, even if he did make the mistake of going all-in too early in Ames, Iowa last year.  He connects with people better than Romney does, and after having had to fight a Democratic-controlled legislature for the last four years of his term as governor, knows how to fight and win on legislative matters, perhaps also better than Romney does.

Pawlenty isn’t the only candidate who fills these needs, of course.  Most of the same arguments could be made for Bobby Jindal in Louisiana, for example, and probably Bob McDonnell in Virginia.  Conservatives would probably like Jindal more than Pawlenty.  But if the reports are true that Pawlenty has risen to the top of the heap, it tells us that Mitt Romney no longer thinks that he needs a game-changing running-mate selection to beat Barack Obama in November.  That may also be the message behind what looks a lot like a trial balloon from Team Romney — a message of confidence and command.


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Romney’s people think Tim Pawlenty would make a good VP nominee. Smart move. It would allow them the retort, “See, there is too someone more boring and uninspiring than Mitt.”

– Thomas Woods

Dante on June 20, 2012 at 8:50 PM

There are guys out there who are just as competent but aren’t boring as he!!.

kg598301 on June 20, 2012 at 8:52 PM

Well, Dick Cheney has a new, younger heart now. He’s rested and tanned, and has been acting President for a few uneventful hours, so he’s good to go.

NaCly dog on June 20, 2012 at 9:44 PM

Pawlenty fits the outline the Romney team has detailed very well. I still, however, think that foreign policy credentials must play a major role in Romney’s selection, as he is weak in that area. T-Paw can’t check off that box.

Mr. Arkadin on June 20, 2012 at 1:28 PM

Oh, come on. Pawlenty can “check that box” as well as Romney. Or Christie. Or Jindal. Or just about any of the other “possibles”. That whole “foreign policy cred” thing was mainly a bogus anti-Palin argument, as if ANY governor is going to be brimming with vast foreign policy experience.

ddrintn on June 20, 2012 at 9:45 PM

Yup – Mark Dayton, Al Franken and Any Klobuchar are nothing if not TrueCons. Can’t argue with your reasoning, I’ll give you that.

whatcat on June 20, 2012 at 3:37 PM

Thank you for so easily showing in this discussion that you are a bad-faith debater who has trouble admitting when he’s incorrect! :)

Bizarro No. 1 on June 20, 2012 at 11:34 PM

Don’t forget The Body. He was a lump of sanity.

msupertas on June 20, 2012 at 4:59 PM

Jesse helps make my point – he ran as a moderate, positioned between Coleman on the Right and Humphrey on the Left.

He didn’t run in 2002, I say because he knew he couldn’t beat Pawlenty, the candidate who was to the Right of him.

Bizarro No. 1 on June 20, 2012 at 11:45 PM

The problem with Pawlenty is he’s boring as hell.
Conservatives across American want Rubio!

Mark7788 on June 21, 2012 at 1:15 AM

Rubio for VP!
Rubio for VP!
Energize the base!

Mark7788 on June 21, 2012 at 1:16 AM

MN isn’t a purple state. It hasn’t voted Republican for president since 1972. The last time they re-elected a Republican senator it was Durenberg, a liberal Republican who isn’t even a Republican any more, in the 80s. Norm Coleman and Tim Pawlenty won state-wide elections this century but never got to 50% of the vote – they benefited from 3rd party candidacies. Arne Carlson was another liberal Republican who endorsed Obama and all that. Their two current senators are among the most liberal in the country.

Not easy at all for a conservative like Pawlenty to be elected and re-elected state-wide in Minnesota. While it’s not a reflexively partisan state like MA or CA, it’s almost as liberal.

joana on June 20, 2012 at 6:48 PM

The last time we voted for a Repub presidential candidate is the only important criteria?

We achieved C&C here in the last 10 years; deliberalized the public schools to an important degree; where have our crippling budgetary problems, or major problems w/unemployment, been? Almost as liberal as CA? lol in what sense?

Also, I say that you distorted the results of the elections non-Leftists have won here in order to downplay the losses of the Leftists, which you’ve done in one way I’ll mention by ignoring the impact individuals’ personalities have had on the races – you are one of the misinformed outsiders I referred to earlier.

Right now, the GOP here controls both Houses after shellacking the Dems in 2010. Tom Emmer, a poor candidate, barely lost to Dayton, and I believe Dayton would have lost if a better candidate than Emmer had won the GOP primary. In the last 30 years, Leftist/blue candidates, who we are supposedly so fond of/partial to & who often had big name recognition in the state, like Wendell Anderson, Rudy Perpich, Ann Wynia, Roger Moe, Mike Hatch, Walter Mondale, Al Franken, and Skip Humphrey were unable to fairly defeat people who ran at worst as moderates like Boschwitz, Grams, Pawlenty, Coleman, Carlson, and Ventura – those kinds of election results (I ask you to think about Walter Mondale loss in particular) are what happens in a solid blue, rather than a purple, state? :)

Bizarro No. 1 on June 21, 2012 at 1:21 AM

“In the last 30 years or so” – FIFM

Bizarro No. 1 on June 21, 2012 at 1:27 AM

I can just feel the conservative base…slipping…slowly…into…lethargy.

insidiator on June 21, 2012 at 7:25 AM

I can just feel the conservative base…slipping…slowly…into…lethargy.

insidiator on June 21, 2012 at 7:25 AM

If Pawlenty gets the nod, I’ll feel it, too, but, I don’t believe he will [crossing my fingers]

Bizarro No. 1 on June 21, 2012 at 10:45 AM

I hope it’s Jindal. DREAMy Rubio is looking a bit squishy from where I’m sitting, and Jindal delivers the South an excellent reason to buck up for Romney.

If Romney needs Jindal to deliver the South, he is in deep, deep doo. (VA doesn’t count any more as “South”—it’s been annexed by DC and Montgomery County, MD)

Portia46 on June 21, 2012 at 12:42 PM

Hey, it’s bad enough RINO Romney’s at the top of the ticket. Pawlenty??? The guy’s useless!?! If Little Timmy’s the VP pick, I’ll just let this election just slide, and the (R)s can just LOSE their own election, because they would deserve it!?!

Colatteral Damage on June 21, 2012 at 6:47 PM

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