Tim Pawlenty Needs a Hug

Tim Pawlenty is an interesting cat to follow. His name is regularly thrown around as a potential candidate in 2012, but it’s hard to see where he fits in. He doesn’t create the excitement of a Sarah Palin or have the near impeccable fiscal conservative credentials like a Bobby Jindal or a Mark Sanford. He’s just a Republican from one of the bluest of blue states, trying to make a dollar out of fifteen cents.

But little by little he seems to be making moves, and as people continue to look towards the GOP Governors for new leaders and new ideas, he’s one of the governors people seem to like to interview. Maybe they expect him to be one of them squishy-moderates, but when he speaks out on the “kitchen table issues” it’s always as a principled conservative, who has been applying some of those core principles to run a “blue” state.

He sat down recently with Geraghty the Indispensable to discuss the Generational Theft Act recently signed into law…

“Minnesota ranks forty-sixth in terms of getting federal spending in relation to the amount of taxes paid – for every dollar we sent in to Washington, we get about 72 cents back. We’re a major payer of the federal government’s tabs, unlike many other states that I won’t mention. I say, when you’re paying to buy the pizza, it’s okay to have a slice. Now, if you were a liberal Democratic governor and you opposed military spending, are you not going to take National Guard funding? If you were a liberal who opposed No Child Left Behind, are you going to take federal funding in education? So I’m wondering why that standard is only being applied now to conservatives…

“To use an example, in Medicaid, states pay a part of the costs, the federal government pays a part of the costs, and everyone knows the program is mathematically and demographically unsustainable. We need dramatic reform. But the federal government is about to give us a mountain of cash – but if you take the money you can’t change eligibility requirements. That ties the hands of states from enacting the reforms that that program needs…The bill includes lots and lots of education money, even through many states weren’t proposing to cut education. I had actually proposed a slight increase, under a reform proposal that would enact pay-for-performance. Now we’re getting a truckload of education money, and even the Democrats in my state wouldn’t have proposed that much spending under these economic circumstances. So the stimulus funding distorts the spending focus of the states and papers over the need to reform these programs…”

So what’s Pawlenty’s next move? Minnesota to the best of my knowledge doesn’t have term limits, so he could decide to run for re-election in 2010. It was my feeling the un-official “launch” of his Presidential campaign was going to be last November at the Republican Governors Association Conference (Charlie Crist too), but “Sarahmania” put the squash on that.

For T-Paw, I think it all depends how good 2009 is to him. There’s still the pesky matter of Norm Coleman’s senate seat to sort out. Personally, I wouldn’t mind seeing a Pawlenty book because his concept of “Sam’s Club Republicans” is one I think needs to be added to the debate of where the party is going. Other than that, whatever he can do to raise his national stature.

Maybe he can give the response to the President’s next address?

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