Pawlenty can read the polls
It appears Tim Pawlenty has pared down his 2008 to-do list. That line about running for president is nowhere to be found. "I'll be lucky to be re-elected governor of Minnesota," he told reporters. That may be a stretch.
It appears Tim Pawlenty has pared down his 2008 to-do list.
That line about running for president is nowhere to be found.
"I'll be lucky to be re-elected governor of Minnesota," he told reporters.
That may be a stretch. No one on the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party side looks as strong as he does, and third parties have a long ways to go to repeat the 1998 Jesse Ventura victory.
Pawlenty has some 'splainin' to do to conservative supporters before next year's gubernatorial campaign.
His no-new-taxes pledge and his ability to stick to it while helping solve a nearly $4.6 billion deficit a couple of years ago attracted attention from conservative groups. He made the rounds at the 2004 National Republican Convention, coming out as one of the top potential 2008 candidates.
As recently as Feb. 9 of this year, ABC News reported that members of the conservative Council on National Policy liked that they saw.
"In informal conversations, as described by two of the participants, more than a dozen names were thrown around - most notably that of popular conservative Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty," ABC reported.
Things have changed. When ABC filed its report, the governor was beginning a hard push to open a Twin Cities casino with the state and northern Minnesota American Indian tribes splitting profits. That is not a conservative Republican idea.
Then came May 20, when Pawlenty offered up a "health impact fee" tacking 75 cents onto a pack of cigarettes. Democrats let Pawlenty twist in the wind for weeks, with national and state taxpayers' rights leaders attacking him.
Eventually, the cigarette "fee" and a doubling of taxes on other tobacco products became the way out of a legislative budget impasse.
When a reporter asked if the charge really is a tax, Pawlenty responded: "I call it a solution." But House Speaker Steve Sviggum, Pawlenty's closest legislative friend, called it a tax while standing a few inches from the governor, and Pawlenty did not interrupt to correct the speaker.
National conservative groups cannot stomach someone who they think broke his word on raising taxes and supports a new casino. And since the right wing nominates the GOP candidate, Pawlenty is left with little chance to win the big nod.
The governor himself makes a good point to prove he is not running. Other candidates already are traveling the country campaigning. Pawlenty isn't. His only national media attention lately - besides presiding over a partial government shutdown - came on a little-watched early Sunday morning show and at a congressional hearing on ethanol.
"I am making no plans or activities running for president," Pawlenty said. "I am focused on being governor."
That is wise. His ratings have fallen in recent weeks.
In a mid-July poll by Survey USA, just 43 percent of Minnesotans approved of his job, his lowest mark.
Even Republican areas in western and southern Minnesota can't manage more than 48 percent support for the incumbent.
The most telling figure may be that he garnered support from just 35 percent of the state's independents and about the same in the 55-year-old-and-up category. He needs independent and older voters to win re-election next year, so he must concentrate on Nov. 7, 2006, before thinking about higher office.
Davis is The Forum's Capitol correspondent in St. Paul. He can be reached at email@example.com