The Corner

This is Your Pawlenty Wake-Up Call

I’ve never bought into the silly stereotype that conservatives are stupid, at least not until watching the GOP’s recent handling of it’s own presidential field. Granted, the first debate featured some minor players with no serious chance of victory, and some of the more prominent candidates are laboring under serious political handicaps. But Tim Pawlenty is a great candidate. It’s just plain nuts not to see this, emphasize it, and take advantage of it. Instead of pining away for Chris Christie, Mitch Daniels, Paul Ryan, or Scott Walker to enter the race, why not wake up and recognize that Tim Pawlenty has already got everything the GOP is looking for — with two successful gubernatorial terms worth of experience to boot. What’s not to like?

Tim Pawlenty has already beaten the Democrats in a government shut-down battle. He’s defeated public-employee unions in a high-stakes strike. He was regularly rated as one of the most fiscally conservative governors in the nation. And he managed to do it all in a blue state. Pawlenty is Scott Walker with experience. It’s just that nobody knows it because Pawlenty’s clashes with his state’s public unions and big Democratic spenders happened some time ago. If anything, Pawlenty ought to be getting extra credit for having faced down public-employee unions and profligate Democratic legislators before it was cool. Are we really so dense — so utterly dependent on the latest news cycle — that we are going to let a major opportunity like Pawlenty slip away out of the misplaced worry that he’s got “no name recognition?”

That is a solvable problem. Just watch: “Hey, Tim Pawlenty was a great conservative two-term governor of Minnesota! He’s tough on defense, conservative on social issues, and well liked by people from both sides of the aisle. He’s faced down Democrats time and again and won. He’s got the biography of a lunch-bucket Democrat and the outlook of a fiscally conservative Republican. And he can win! Yes, Tim Pawlenty can beat Barack Obama in a head-to-head battle for the presidency of the United States. Wake up, Republicans! The answer to your prayers is already running. And if all the pundits would just stop fantasizing for a minute about everyone who’s not running, maybe they’d pay more attention to who actually is.”

There, do you recognize Tim Pawlenty’s name now? Well done. Like I said, name recognition is a solvable problem.

No, I’m not endorsing Pawlenty. I’m not endorsing anyone for some time. But I am saying that this unseemly rush to beg other candidates to enter the race is happening without anyone having first properly appreciated and touted what Pawlenty has to offer. Maybe it’s because so many inside-the-beltway pundits know Mitch Daniels, who spent time in the Bush administration, and at a Washington think tank, too. And as noted, Christie, Ryan, and Walker are hot right now. Okay, fine. I’m happy to see any of those guys enter the race if they want to. But Pawlenty’s already in, and that tells you something right there. Besides, Pawlenty’s outside-the-beltway experience and distance from Washington’s pundit class should be considered an asset.

If you want to know more about Pawlenty, there are two easy things you can do. Read Ramesh Ponnuru’s NATIONAL REVIEW cover profile, and get Pawlenty’s campaign book. I’ve read it, and it’s actually fun and interesting, particularly the story of Pawlenty’s upbringing. If he does win, it will be the first time we’ve ever had a president from that kind of urban, blue-collar immigrant background. Reminds me of folks in Pittsburgh, where I grew up.

So stop your moaning. Educate yourself and educate others. Pawlenty’s still got to prove himself on the presidential campaign trail, but give him half a chance and I think you’ll agree that he’s a very promising potential solution to the GOP’s problems in 2012.

Stanley Kurtz — Stanley Kurtz is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

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