Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Paw Over Mitt

Sometimes when you know someone or something too well, it's easy to overlook the better qualities of the person or thing and instead to focus on the flaws, however minimal they may be in reality. You take the good things that are close at hand for granted and are looking for something better over the next horizon. The grass is always greener and all that.

Such may be the case with my (and I suspect other Minnesota conservatives)feelings about Tim Pawlenty becoming the GOP nominee for president in 2012. We've known Pawlenty for a long time and understand the qualities he has that make him an excellent politician as well as his shortcomings. It's difficult for us to get too excited about him as a presidential contender since we're so familiar with him. This familiarity certainly has not bred contempt, but I sense it has bread a certain amount of apathy. Pawlenty as president? Meh, he'd be okay.

So it's helpful in these matters to get a view from the outside and be reminded that the one we know may just be the one we want after all. In the March 7th edition of National Review Ramesh Ponnuru provides exactly that perspective in a piece called Pawlenty to Like (available to all):

Pawlenty is more electable than Palin, who is on the wrong end of a two-to-one split in public opinion; or Huckabee, who has never demonstrated any ability to win votes from non-evangelical voters; or Gingrich, who has enough baggage to open a Louis Vuitton store; or Haley Barbour, who, as a former lobbyist for tobacco companies and the governor of Mississippi, combines several Republican stereotypes to damaging effect. Electability would probably hand Pawlenty the nomination in a one-on-one race against any of these contenders.

He would probably beat Romney in a head-to-head race, too. Like Romney, Pawlenty was elected governor of a blue state in 2002. But there are at least five big differences between them that primary voters may find tell in the Minnesotan’s favor. 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.

Okay, but what about that Mitch Daniels guy? He seems like a solid candidate.

Governor Daniels could be competitive with Pawlenty in a side-by-side comparison. But Pawlenty is in some respects a more impressive political figure. Indiana is a red state that will almost certainly vote for any Republican nominee in 2012; Daniels has never had to win over blue-state voters as Pawlenty did. And Pawlenty has better relations with social conservatives than Daniels does.

Daniels' vow to exlude social issues from the debate is concerning and could alienate enough conservative voters to damage his chances of winning the general election. At this point, if the matchup came down to the two of them, I would have to favor T-Paw as my candidate of choice.

There's still a lot that could happen between now and the start of the GOP primaries. But right now I'm finding myself more and more open to the prospect of supporting Tim Pawlenty. Just have to make a slight edit to that 2002 campaign sign in my garage.