Destination 270

SMU Students Analyze the 2012 Presidential Election

Occupy Pawlenty

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Tim Pawlenty, the former governor of Minnesota, has resigned as Mitt Romney’s campaign co-chair and is pursuing a new lucrative career as CEO of the Wall Street lobbying group, Financial Services Roundtable. Pawlenty stresses he has resigned because his new career does not allow him to participate in partisan campaign activities, not because the Romney campaign is currently in a rough patch. His career change could also be attributed to the supposed $1.8 million dollar salary he will receive or possibly bitterness over not being chosen as either McCain or Romney’s running mate and/or President of the United States. Either way it is a shocking move to Republicans based on his political history and dedication to the GOP. So, let’s investigate and take a stroll down Pawlenty’s path to Wall Street…

Pawlenty is as a fiscal conservative and a strong opponent of abortion and gay marriage. The evangelical father of two grew up with little means and was the first of his family to graduate college. His renowned authenticity and “blue-collar story” that strays from the general Republican stereotype had many believing he was a solid presidential and VP candidate. He also managed to be elected for two-terms in liberal, democratic Minnesota and is praised for his work with Republicans and Democrats alike.

In 2008, Pawlenty was a likely choice for McCain’s running mate, but was passed over for (of all people) Sarah Palin. Pawlenty then announced his presidential bid, but dropped out early in the race after a poor performance in the Iowa straw poll. Quickly Pawlenty was highlighted as a VP for Romney’s ticket, only to be defeated again when Romney announced Paul Ryan as his running mate right before the Republican National Convention.

Romney, although close friends with Pawlenty, most likely did not choose Pawlenty based on Pawlenty’s fiscal history in Minnesota and his “too nice” stereotype. Minnesota was left with a multibillion-dollar project deficit after Pawlenty stepped down in 2011 and both Republicans and Democrats have opposed his policies. Also problematic is Pawlenty’s criticism of Romney’s health care plan. Pawlenty even coined the term “Obamneycare.” Then, when asked about his comments after dropping out of the race, Pawlenty refused to repeat his previous statements. This was seen as an example of Pawlenty’s “too nice” stereotype, a characteristic people thought would make him a weak opponent to Obama and Biden.

It is possible that Pawlenty could have lent to the Republican ballot with his “blue-collar” upbringing, which would fight allegations Romney is an elite with no connection to the middle class. Some believed he would also have some pull with independent Minnesotan voters. A Public Policy Poll from June 1012 found the Romney-Pawlenty matchup was the most popular among like voters in Minnnesota, however according to Micah Cohen at FiveThirtyEight:

“[If] Mr. Romney is looking for a vice-presidential nominee that might also bring along votes from their home state, Mr. Pawlenty might be a poor choice compared to someone like Senator Rob Portman of Ohio, who comes from a state that is a genuine tossup. The home-state effect of a vice-presidential nominee can be overrated in any case, but Minnesota has the longest streak of voting for Democratic presidential candidates than any other state in the nation.”

It seems Pawlenty is done with politics considering this squashes his chance for an administration position in the White House if Romney is elected, and he has no plans to run for Senate in Minnesota in 2014. The Washington Post’s Michael Leahy states, “Pawlenty is out of office with no real public profile, no notable causes or great flock of followers, nothing but his demonstrated zeal as a surrogate and his eagerness to prove his mettle.” It may not have been for show when Pawlenty publicly said “I’m not disappointed” after getting passed over to be Romney’s running mate just a few months ago. Maybe, it is exactly what Pawlenty was hoping for.

(Fun Fact: Pawlenty will be replacing Dallas’s own Steve Bartlett who announced plans to leave Financial Services Roundtable and retire earlier this year)

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