Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty seems to be sticking his toe in the water of 2012 presidential politics. His second term as governor expires in January 2011. He has announced that he will not be running again on the ground that it is time to step aside for someone else to take a turn.
In his second term Pawlenty has had to contend with a heavily Democratic legislature. The legislative session that just ended in June may have resulted in Pawlenty’s finest hour, with his veto of tax increases and his exercise of executive authority to balance the state budget. As on the national stage, in St. Paul the Democrats’ mania for tax increases survives unabated while Minnesotans are struggling to make ends meet. The legislature has served as Pawlenty’s foil to highlight Pawlenty’s strengths in office.
He is a capable and appealing politician who speaks naturally to constituencies ranging from blue collar conservatives to policy wonks. He has a quality of likeability that is in short supply among major league Republican politicians. I found all his gifts to be on display in his recent appearance before the Minnesota chapter of the Republican Jewish caucus. Having just returned from one of his trips abroad, he nevertheless stuck around after his remarks for about 45 minutes to answer questions when the meeting formally broke up.
Pawlenty has also emerged as an articulate critic of Obamacare. The video below captures Pawlenty’s appearance with Neil Cavuto on Fox News last week criticizing the legislation pending in Congres. Pawlenty opens with the statement: “This whole health care proposal by President Obama is really quite a joke on a number of levels. I think he is scamming the American people.”
Beginning at about 3:00, Pawlenty notes the difficulties created by the health care plan adopted in Massachusetts, which he refers to as the closest predecessor on the state level to Obamacare. He cites the Massachusetts program’s exploding costs, which he says have nearly tripled in the past 36 months. Given Governor Romney’s ultimate agreement to the Massachusetts health care legislation, it is a point that has some intraparty resonance.
Our friend Hugh Hewitt briefly addressed Governor Romney’s health care program at pages 150-153 of his highly complimentary 2007 book A Mormon in the White House?. Hugh quotes Romney describing the program as one in which “we can get everybody else insured without spending any more money…Now that was the kind of rigorous analysis that you follow and that I followed in consulting. It’s data. It’s analysis.”
A current Fox News story takes up the possible impact of the Massachusetts program’s difficulties on the politics of 2012 for Governor Romney. The story quotes Boston University social science professor Thomas Whalen: “It’s a political albatross around his neck.” However difficult it is to imagine the political landscape of 2012 now, I doubt that Governor Romney will be holding up the Massachusetts health care legislation as an exhibit supporting his prospective candidacy.
UPDATE: The Minneapolis Star Tribune has a related story today on Pawlenty.
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