Is Tim Pawlenty the least objectionable Republican in 2012?

I was having lunch Friday with a few conservative activists when the conversation turned to 2012, and who has the best chance to beat President Obama.

The answer is: the person who can keep such conversations from going the way ours went.

That’s because our conversation Friday, like every other one I’ve had on the topic of Republican candidates for 2012, focused almost exclusively on candidates’ weakness — from Mitt’s RomneyCare to Sarah Palin’s tendency toward polarization to Mitch Daniels’ “truce” on social issues to Newt Gingrich’s baggage to Haley Barbour’s accent to Bobby Jindal’s inexperience. It’s the kind of conversation that would brighten the day of any Obamaphile.

The name to which we didn’t attach any negatives — nor, I should say, any particular positives — was Tim Pawlenty.

That strikes me as interesting, because evidently a lot of other people have similar thoughts about the former Minnesota governor.

On NPR Friday, David Brooks of the New York Times said it’s probably down to Romney and Pawlenty. In his Sunday column, George Will put Pawlenty on a slightly longer list of “plausible Republican presidents on the horizon,” along with Romeny, Daniels, Barbour and former Utah Gov. and Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman [edited at 12:00 p.m. -- I decided to save the "more on Huntsman" for another post -- KW]. At National Review Online, Ramesh Ponnuru says that, relative to the other Republicans in the field, Pawlenty is “either more conservative, more electable, or both.”

I’ve met Pawlenty once, in Atlanta late last year at a conference about regulation and entrepreneurship. He gave an adequate, not dazzling, speech, though admittedly the crowd was pretty small. One observer who had seen Pawlenty speak before said the talk was a marked improvement over past outings.

As Ponnuru notes about Pawlenty’s book, “Courage to Stand” (which I’ve not yet read), the Midwesterner quite obviously wants to emphasize his blue-collar roots; he’s generally credited with coining the term “Sam’s Club Republican.” Ponnuru outlines five reasons Pawlenty could beat Romney head-to-head:

First, Pawlenty was elected as a conservative whereas Romney ran as a moderate. Second, Pawlenty pursued a more confrontational strategy: He didn’t cut any grand bipartisan deal, as Romney did with Ted Kennedy on health care. Third, and as a result, Pawlenty’s record does not include anything as likely to offend conservative voters as Romney’s Massachusetts health-care law, which made the purchase of health insurance compulsory.

Fourth, Pawlenty won reelection in his blue state, even in 2006, which was a slaughterhouse of a year for Republicans. Romney, by contrast, left the governorship after one term: He was unable to position himself as a conservative for a presidential run while staying popular in his home state. Fifth, Pawlenty has an ability to connect to blue-collar voters that Romney has never demonstrated.

All of which is to say, Pawlenty bears further watching as a real possibility in 2012.

– By Kyle Wingfield

98 comments Add your comment

Jefferson

March 7th, 2011
12:09 pm

Better check if he is tall enough, one of those hopefulls has been deemed too short. Ha,Ha.

Allen

March 7th, 2011
12:10 pm

Pretty sure he has the most notable ad of the 2012 season thus far.

Libby

March 7th, 2011
12:12 pm

I hope and pray for John Bolton.

Not too short

March 7th, 2011
12:13 pm

He may be short, but I think Mitch Daniels deserves a close look based on his performance.

ByteMe

March 7th, 2011
12:14 pm

Pawlenty changes with the wind. He’s not “objectionable” because he won’t stake out positions that are going to excite anyone and his views are very flexible. He won’t survive a crazy-dominated nominating process and if he does, he’ll be quite objectionable to the other 70% of the population.

Fun!

Road Scholar

March 7th, 2011
12:21 pm

It seems that all the Repub candidates are publishing books and trying to campaign….to sell them! Kyle, do you think that they are following Obama’s model…two books published before he ran?

I like Pawlwnty, but I need to know more about him. Who he “runs” with, more deeply know his views and responses off the cuff. If he can’t deliver a speech, which is prepared in advance, how will he negotiate and discuss this nation’s problems with the American people and world leaders? We need some new blood for all all parties, but they need national experience, which does not disqualify governors that get invoved in national leadership and issues. But foremost, we need problem solvers! People that will learn, listen and lead by communicating a clear message and who can explain to the opposition how they came to their conclusion/policy.

Sean Smith

March 7th, 2011
12:23 pm

You republicans can just write off 2012 and worry about 2016. There are no good republican candidates for 2012.

But as a Democrat I am rooting for a Newt/Palin ticket, just for the entertainment value of it.

Herman Cain

March 7th, 2011
12:32 pm

Poor little sean, you shouldn’t be drinking this early in the day. obozo is going back to the cesspool of a city from which he came. He cemented his defeat with obozokare. He has just been a little boy sitting at a big man’s desk waiting for a leader to show up.

stranger in a strange land

March 7th, 2011
12:35 pm

rather than a viable (R) emerging from the pack who can tickle the fancy of a suffcient number of otherwise uninformed voters to get elected – expect the (D) in office now is going to have to make a gaff of the type described by Edwin Edwards (of LA guv’nor fame a few years back), i.e he gets caught in bed with a live boy, or a dead animal. Unlikely I should think.

Freedom Lover

March 7th, 2011
12:35 pm

Only one republican has been right about sound money, the crash, the economy, the empire, freedom, liberty, and the right path forward. It certainly isn’t Pawlenty.

Ron Paul 2012.

arnold

March 7th, 2011
12:36 pm

When you have to pick the least offensive person, you are backing a losing proposition.

Cutty

March 7th, 2011
12:41 pm

Obamaphiles, that’s rather childish but anyway. Get someone to proofread your ‘work’ before you turn it in. I’m sure that was covered in Journalism 101.

Seems as if even you, the biggest republican cheerleader this side of Gingrich’s 3rd wife, is beginning to realize your cut and spend ilk will have a hard time defeating Obama w the set of yahoos your party is running.

BS Aplenty

March 7th, 2011
12:43 pm

I think that one of the many things that makes ANY of these candidates viable for the 2012 Republican nomination is…uh, the CURRENT president. Most libs commentators seem, understandably, determined to focus on inconsequential Republican shortcomings.

A fundamental test for each Republican candidate is can they communicate a more resonant vision for America than the current office-holder. A vision that does not include the bloated, Socialist, nanny-state envisioned by Obama and the Democrats.

I like Newt because his vision and leadership credentials but his ability to communicate the “warm & fuzzies” will need to improve. We’ll just have to see who survives the try-outs.

PinkoNeoConLibertarian

March 7th, 2011
12:48 pm

I think it’s a sad state of affairs when the selection process (of any party) for the President of The United States is focused on finding the least objectionable candidate.

Sean Smith

March 7th, 2011
12:49 pm

Newt and the warm fuzzies, thats pretty funny?? He’s about as warm as a glock upside the head.

DJ Sniper

March 7th, 2011
12:49 pm

I don’t know a whole lot about Tim Pawlenty, but check out this epic fail:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/03/03/tim-pawlenty-bank-of-america_n_830827.html

Starring Kam Fong as Chin Ho

March 7th, 2011
12:50 pm

With 5.00 gas and no rebound in the economy on the horizon, a loaf of bread should be able to beat Obama. But with that said, there were enough sheeple out there to put him in once, so it wouldn’t surprise me if he won again. It won’t matter if Obama wins again anyway, the dems will lose the Senate and that will neuter Barry once and for all.

Not So Casual Observer

March 7th, 2011
12:56 pm

The “Most Objectionable” seemed to work for the Democrats. All that is required is to lie about your positions, deny your former associations and find a catchy phrase to trick the voters. Of course we are talking about Democrats so fooling them is obviously not very difficult.

Not So Casual Observer

March 7th, 2011
12:57 pm

More amazing than electing Obama is that people will still admit to being a Democrat!

AmVet

March 7th, 2011
1:01 pm

There are very few possible GOP candidates who would ace the required Purity Test.

And as Joseph McCarthy is long gone, the con conundrum on a BHO beater is practically palpable.

The betting man simply wonders if this slate will be as laughable as the GOP slate was in 2008…

joe

March 7th, 2011
1:02 pm

We need Rand Paul…he’s the only one with stones to cut everything across the board and eliminate some Dept of Ed, Dept of Energy, IRS, etc.

JohnnyReb

March 7th, 2011
1:07 pm

Kyle, thanks for an interesting article but Brooks, Will, etc. are the so-called ruling class. Their opinions need to be weighed, but mine is they have much less weight with Tea Party supporters than within the beltway. And of course, the Repubs can’t win without the Tea Party.

Althought the Leftist media, and I’m sure your coworkers at the AJC already have Barry reelected. That’s very premature just as is deciding Republicans don’t have anyone that can be elected but one or two possibilities. I hope the Left keeps that attitude and it translates into low turnout for them. The country can’t stand four more years of Obama.

jconservative

March 7th, 2011
1:12 pm

Romney has one albatross around his neck, for years he was referred to by the national press as “the liberal Republican Governor of Massachusetts”. Make that two albatrosses, the words “liberal” and “Massachusetts”.

Republicans need to find a candidate with the charisma to take on Obama in that 10% of the deciding electorate – the independents. To do that will require the Republican primary voters to think “White House” instead of “ideology”. I am not sure Republicans, as a party, will have that ability this election cycle.

Pawlenty the Panderer

March 7th, 2011
1:29 pm

Is this the same Tim Pawlenty who said in an interview last month that we need a government shutdown to draw a line in the sand and suggested it should last a month or longer? The same Tim Pawlenty who launched a website to support Scott Walker’s efforts to decimate union bargaining rights, changing is position from when he was governor of Minnesota? The same Tim Pawlenty who was for advancing gay rights before he was against them?

Pawlenty has set out on his Tea Party pandering tour, and if this piece is any indication, it’s working.

What if

March 7th, 2011
1:35 pm

Is Pawlenty a real live actual conservative or just another Republican? Sounds like from others’ posts he’s just another Republican.

Kyle Wingfield

March 7th, 2011
1:39 pm

It is amazing the lengths to which some people will go to be offended, e.g. Cutty @ 12:41.

JohnnyReb: Obviously, the eventual GOP nominee will be running against a flawed opponent in Obama. What’s interesting to me is how few conservatives and Republicans I meet these days who are excited about any of the potential candidates.

jconservative: Do you have someone in mind?

that's goofy

March 7th, 2011
1:40 pm

too far out to predict a winner (wasn’t Sen. Clinton supposed to win the DNC?)

If the GOP continues to try and out Conservative each other – it will be an up hill climb to the White House. Unfortunately the Primary process will eat an electable Republican. Think Bob Dole 1996 – was he really the best the GOP could do?

Handing out tax cuts to the rich and corporations that outsource jobs is not the way to earn voters trust.

arnold

March 7th, 2011
1:41 pm

“Is Pawlenty a real live actual conservative or just another Republican? Sounds like from others’ posts he’s just another Republican.”

What difference will it make? I like Palin/Huckleby. Maybe Palin/Gingrich. Maybe Paylin/Barbour. It will be fun to watch.

Pdentgrou

March 7th, 2011
1:48 pm

What was wrong with Mitch Daniels calling a truce on social issues? There are way too many other issues to worry about other than if two men sleep together, etc.

chef pierre

March 7th, 2011
1:50 pm

How about Cheney Mclame , stop please..lol

jt

March 7th, 2011
1:52 pm

The Republicans do not need anyone to run.

Obama works just fine for the big government republican party, although your typical Republican isn’t honest enough to admit it.

Obama has grown government and spent more than only a Romney or Bush would only DREAM about.

There is only one true conservative choice in 2012. Ron Paul.
( I realize that this guy frightens the statists like Wingfield, but it is high time you other people get over the fear of not having Uncle Sam around to make decisions for yourself, plan your retirement, and protect your from marijuana cigarettes). Trust me, you have nothing to fear…..You can do it.

chef pierre

March 7th, 2011
1:54 pm

Maybe the GOP can talk Gaddafi into running …

reebok

March 7th, 2011
1:57 pm

“…Sarah Palin’s tendency toward polarization…?” My, you have a gift for understatemen…

Rafe Hollister

March 7th, 2011
1:57 pm

Kyle, you are correct in that Pawlenty is the best of the bunch, but I keep hoping some on will surface. Probably wasted hope. Pawlenty seems capable of winning in that his positions are much more mainstream than Barry’s, but it is tough to dislodge a squatter.

Remember however, that although our candidate may have some baggage, so does the pretender in chief. The guy or gal willing to throw caution to the wind and take on the pretender and show that he has no clothes, will win the day. A McCain type timid approach will change no minds and reap no rewards.

CDog

March 7th, 2011
2:00 pm

I will not vote for a RINO like McCain. I hope the GOP learned its lesson last time and will nominate a conservative. I don’t know much about Pawlenty, but right now I am backing Huckabee – pro-life, pro-family, pro-2nd amendment, pro-fair tax.

reebok

March 7th, 2011
2:00 pm

The GOP will shove a sacrificial lamb out there next year, much as they did to Bob Dole when Bill Clinton ran for re-election. Any thruly ambitious Republican will sit this one out and aim for 2016…

reebok

March 7th, 2011
2:02 pm

Truly, not ‘thruly.’ I need spell-check.

jconservative

March 7th, 2011
2:03 pm

Kyle at 1:39 pm – “jconservative: Do you have someone in mind?”

The only “charismatic” Republican leader that comes to mind is Governor Christie. Have you seen this guy work a crowd? He has “it”. But he keeps repeating that he is not “ready”.

Back in the good old days of “smoke-filled rooms” Christie would be “told” he was the candidate.

Maybe the Republicans need to break out the cigars. Since they are having their convention in Tampa, cigars and a “smoke-filled room” would seem like a natural.

JohnnyReb

March 7th, 2011
2:06 pm

Kyle @ 1:39. Put me in the unexcited category. The possibilities that touch my heart strings have little to no chance of getting the nomination. That’s because they are speaking in terms now that sound great, but can’t be used in the campaign. We need to move past wanting someone to call Obama out on all his miscues in language we love, to challenging him on his agenda and results in the traditional manner. Most of all, I want a candidate who is not interested in compromising with the Left. Note I did not state one that would not compromise, as I think compromise will be necessary. However, it should be the last resort.

RafeBuster

March 7th, 2011
2:26 pm

@Rafe.
Be reminded.. Your “squatter” won election by a LANDSLIDE. Choke on that haterade..HATER!!!

Cutty

March 7th, 2011
2:28 pm

I don’t think I would ever be offended by anything you have to say, and if by chance I was I would say so; using correct spelling as well. I merely stated that your use of GOP ‘code words’ is childish, which they are.

Kyle Wingfield

March 7th, 2011
2:29 pm

jconservative @ 2:03: Agree Christie has the charisma, but I’d like to see a bit more track record from him. He’s just now starting on his second budget, right?

There could be a bumper crop of candidates in 2016, when all those governors (plus Jindal, elected in 2007, and Christie and McDonnell of VA, elected in 2009) elected last year would be well into a second term if re-elected.

DYJ

March 7th, 2011
2:29 pm

Since, Bobby Jindal has no interest in running (for now) I’d like to see Tim Pawlenty run. He gets my vote.

Kyle Wingfield

March 7th, 2011
2:30 pm

“Obamaphile” is a code word? Better tell the Greeks.

carlosgvv

March 7th, 2011
2:39 pm

It looks as though our choices in the 2012 presidential election will be the same as in way too many previous ones; bad and worse. We have many really good people who won’t run because our political election system has become corrupt. What do you think this says for the future of our country?

chef pierre

March 7th, 2011
2:39 pm

What about Sonny Perdue , he did such a great job in GA..

Road Scholar

March 7th, 2011
2:40 pm

Kyle: “..the eventual GOP nominee will be running against a flawed opponent in Obama..”

Flawed? So I guess it is ok to insult all candidates, huh? He may have issues;, but “flawed”?

Kyle Wingfield

March 7th, 2011
2:44 pm

(Sighing) Road, so is he perfect — i.e., flawless?

Halftrack

March 7th, 2011
2:52 pm

It’s to, too, early to narrow down a candidate. With Obummer not being adequately vetted by the news media, Journalist should avoid saying a person is inexperienced. What is the candidates message and are they truthful and do they have a moral compass to guide them. There’s a lot of time before Primary time. Let’s don’t line up behind a jack### too soon and lose a gold nugget in the raw.

Hillbilly Deluxe

March 7th, 2011
2:53 pm

It’s way too early to be worried about the 2012 election. Who knows what will happen between now and then? The election may turn on some crisis that hasn’t even happened yet.