On Monday, the 2012 presidential election got underway when the first top-tier Republican presidential contender announced that he was forming an exploratory committee. Let’s be clear, though: Regardless of what Tim Pawlenty, former two-term Republican governor of Minnesota, may say, he isn’t exploring anything.
Pawlenty is, and has been for some time, a serious candidate for president. Start learning about him; it’s highly likely that he’ll be shaping the debate, and our country, for years to come.
Pawlenty brings extraordinary strengths to the table. Eight years as a successful governor of a large state have equipped him with an attractive résumé of executive experience outside of the unpopular halls of the Capitol. At 50 years old, he fixes the GOP’s 2008 mistake: They need a youthful and vigorous candidate. Furthermore, as Pawlenty frequently touts, he comes from the only state to pick Walter Mondale over Ronald Reagan in 1984; a conservative Republican who won two successful terms on blue turf, his crossover appeal is perhaps his foremost selling point.
The power of Pawlenty is that he can be all things to all people in a way that does not come off as contrived or phony. He casts his brand as being a “Sam’s Club Republican,” one more at ease taking in a hockey match and knocking back some beers than rubbing elbows at a country club. His rhetoric is peppered with a dash of populism, a dash of pragmatism, a dash of conservative flair and a dash of practical Midwestern sensibility. He is an evangelical Christian who is passionate in his faith, but does not use it as a wedge. He is smart, personable, down to earth and a master of retail politics. Outside of his natural constituency of the Midwest and the Great Plains, it is not difficult to envision Pawlenty endearing himself to Southern, Western and Northeastern voters.
Pawlenty’s critics consistently bash him with one big qualifier: “vanilla.” Virtually no press coverage of Pawlenty is complete without a paragraph dedicated to the notion that he is bland, unappealing, dispassionate and dry. As someone who has had the honor of meeting the governor in person and hearing him speak, I cannot tell you how wrong they are. Pawlenty may not throw rhetorical bombs like Sarah Palin, but he speaks with zeal and intense energy. He is almost Clintonesque in his ability to connect individually with voters. Pawlenty has been known to step down from the rostrum after a speech into a crowd of hundreds. He will stay and shake every hand, sign every autograph, take every picture, answer every question and hear every personal story until no one is left. Not only is that the sign of a great politician, that’s the sign of a true leader.
Numerous commentators have argued that Pawlenty’s trump card is his ability to be “the last candidate standing.” They argue that “Romneycare” and Mormonism might hurt Mitt Romney, personal dalliances might fell Newt Gingrich, perceived moderation and elitism might incapacitate Mitch Daniels and Jon Huntsman, fringe status might impede Rick Santorum and blunders and biography might bring down Haley Barbour. Who’s left? The impeccably credentialed, universally acceptable if not loved, plainspoken and perseverant Pawlenty. Obviously, Pawlenty may stand to benefit due to the weaknesses in the rest of the GOP field. However, if he wins the nomination, it will be thanks to his overwhelming strengths, not just to his peers’ weaknesses.
I like Tim Pawlenty, and you should too. Pawlenty is genuine in his political convictions and personal conduct, and it would be to the benefit of our democracy to have him and President Obama on a stage next to one another in 2012. Pawlenty is playing to win: His campaign is robust, his Web presence is cutting edge and he is taking all the right steps. So get to know Tim Pawlenty, the future of the Republican Party and perhaps the future of our country.
Sam Dulik is a sophomore in the School of Foreign Service. He can be reached at[email protected] Quorum Call appears every other Friday.
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