Tim Pawlenty Belly Flops Into The Governor’s Race

Pawlenty's debut was brittle, artificial and reeked of mothballs

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I had expected a smooth dive from tall heights, something masterful given the buildup over the last several months but instead, watching from Barcelona where I uncharacteristically lucked out on avoiding the bad weather back in Minnesota, I saw Tim Pawlenty belly flop into the Republican gubernatorial race. This is the “A Team?”

His video announcement was a disaster. Stale, rote, formulaic, you could practically hear the consultants off camera giving him stage directions: emote, feel, frown, purse lips. Whoever wrote the script should be fired but my fear is that person will guide the campaign for the foreseeable future. The music for the video was audible Velveeta cheese.

A friend noticed that Pawlenty said nothing about Second Amendment rights in his video, nothing about the law abiding having a Constitutional right to bear arms that is under increasing assault. He posits himself brave, like the ludicrous title of his failed presidential campaign book “Courage to Stand,” which is enough to make a cat laugh. Then again, his protege Sen. Paul Anderson has already introduced legislation to erode those rights. This is who they really are.

In the end, of course, bad campaigns come down to bad candidates. Pawlenty doesn’t have to be one but his debut was inauspicious.

He trotted out an amalgam of poll tested issues: high health insurance premiums, exorbitant college tuition, the need for a “decent way of life,” and clucked about “toxic politics.” Only Pawlenty, he suggested immodestly and without proof, can “bring us together.” He threw in a jab at Big Pharma for the opioid crisis, another jab at political correctness concerning welfare use among immigrants and gave lip service to keeping your Social Security benefits without taxation. Oh yes: his mother died when he was sixteen.

Put this all together in the blender and you get his ersatz campaign theme: “A Better Way Forward.” Who thought there could be something worse than “Forward Together?”

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Pawlenty held an artificial, invitation only appearance at some cheesy diner that couldn’t have been smaller short of a phone booth. After programmed remarks, he made himself available to local media. To call his performance unimpressive is being kind.

His appearance last Friday on “Almanac” is cause for concern. Before he went on air, a republican member of the political panel that followed later in the show, asked him in the green room what he had done for Minnesota Republicans once out of office. Helped pay down the party debt? Recruited a bench of strong candidates? Raised money like Norm Coleman?

Pawlenty was shocked and startled at the honest, straightforward questions about him that are on the minds of most Minnesota Republicans. “Rattled” was the word used to describe his reaction. His communications staffers later called for that activist to be fired from her job. This is what the Left does. Welcome to the Uniparty.

On air, Pawlenty said that he was a “vision caster,” that he “early voted for Trump” which no one with an IQ over 65 believes, that his speaking before the Minnesota Family Council in June only meant that Evangelicals should get over their labels and stop dividing people, and called legislators “button pushers.” Again, “the A Team.” Or so we are told by those wanting to make bank on this campaign, dressing up cravenness with the political reality of needing to win.

I’m all for winning but the willful naïveté of the Pawlenty putschists reminds me of what was said of the Bourbon restoration: they learned nothing and forgot nothing. So it is here, at least so far. Strong arm Pawlenty all they like onto the ballot, that dog won’t hunt in November and it won’t be close. Then again, as I’ve written for what seems like forever, the objective of most Minnesota Republican insiders isn’t about any particular campaign winning but who can make the most money while it loses. With Team Pawlenty, what’s old is new again.

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Jeff Johnson can’t win, Tim Pawlenty might. There, in seven words, is the case for a third term for a failed Governor who abandoned the state once out of office. Adorned with stupefying language that repels–”vision caster”–Minnesota Republicans are supposed to go along with their betters and put aside which candidate can best speak for them, speak to their concerns. This was the conceit of the Jeb! campaign and it is the conceit of the Pawlenty faux juggernaut. We’re sorry you lost your manufacturing job but globalism is where it’s at. Yes, Minnesota is slowly becoming a cold California but let us manage the decline.

The positioning of Pawlenty as some sort of advocate for “the middle” is simply an indication of the contempt in which they hold the average voter; they think you’re stupid enough to buy him as your champion, all the evidence to the contrary be damned. In tandem with Pawlenty’s announcement, Norm Coleman’s PAC talked about reigning in the growth of government. Under Republicans Kurt Daudt & Paul Gazelka, government spending grew by ten percent last session. But sure, Pawlenty, who has refused to take a pledge not to increase taxes, is going to remedy things. Pawlenty as governor will be Tim Walz-lite. “Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?”

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The problem with Pawlenty and his campaign was revealed in his green room reaction to polite, normal questions from a hard working activist. He seems out of touch with what is on the minds of real Minnesotans but that should come as no surprise given the bubble in which he lives, surrounded by the Alex Conant/Brian McClung axis of mediocre consultancy. Who else in 2018 would think to use the phrase “vision caster” without being laughed out of the room?

He seems afraid to go to events where he can’t be scripted and the audience carefully controlled. He seems afraid of facing up to profound concerns about his tenure, as well as his absence from the state, from regular Minnesota voters in his own party. He seems more attuned to a cynical, calibrated approach to President Trump than to any authentic embrace and understanding of the issues that got the blue collar billionaire elected president. In a foundational sense, Tim Pawlenty doesn’t believe in anything but he’ll say anything if it can get him a third term.

Pawlenty needs to improve and fast. I’m not optimistic. But if he does manage a successful con game and win the primary, I’ll vote for him in the general because desperate times call for desperate measures. But still I won’t delude myself: I’ll be eating the dog food.

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In addition to Alpha News, John Gilmore is also a contributor to The Hill. He is the founder and executive director of Minnesota Media Monitor.™ He blogs at MinnesotaConservatives.org and is on Twitter under @Shabbosgoy. He can be reached at John@alphanewsmn.com

Photo credit: Star Tribune

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