No, Blocking Franken Isn't a Win-Win for Pawlenty
by Jonathan Singer, Thu Apr 09, 2009 at 09:14:30 AM EDT
Some convoluted reasoning from Chris Cillizza:
Seen through the 2012-only lens, Pawlenty's current position [as "staunch defender of Coleman's right to continue his legal appeals despite his 312 vote deficit"] looks more like a win-win.
Assuming he doesn't plan to run for reelection, Pawlenty can refuse to sign the election certificate for Franken -- if Coleman wants to take the legal fight federal -- and continue to raise his national profile by arguing (in his low key, inoffensive way) on a variety of televisions outlets that he is simply trying to ensure no legitimate votes are left uncounted, a GREAT issue for him in the eyes of GOP base voters.
And, if Coleman ends his appeal after if he loses at the state Supreme Court level, Pawlenty has seen his national profile raised as a defender of voters' rights without any serious backlash in the state.
"It's a net positive for him, especially nationally," said one senior Republican strategist. "He has a solid position: He has consistently said he wants to see the legal process completely played out to ensure no voter is disenfranchised and the actual winner is sent to DC."
To this point, Pawlenty has nicely played out a tricky political situation to his benefit, a deftness that speaks well of his potential as a national candidate in 2012.
Only inside the Beltway could it be believed that service as an obstructionist hyper-partisan hack forwards a politician's presidential ambitions. Just ask Bob Dole how easy it was for him to shake off the "hatchet man" label bestowed on him in 1971 by fellow Republican Senator William Saxbe or live down his own comments in the 1976 Vice Presidential debates about 1.6 million Americans dying in "Democrat wars" of the 20th century. (He was still fighting off this public perception during the 1996 general election.)
No, while Tim Pawlenty plays his partisan fiddle in the Minnesota Senate recount symphony, his state has been metaphorically burning with only one Senator for months. It's not as if Norm Coleman's chances of overtaking Al Franken's lead were great or even mediocre at the get-go of these seemingly unending legal proceedings -- through which time Pawlently has toed his party's line to the detriment of his state, which is without half of its representation in the Senate. By this point, Coleman's hopes are close to nil, yet Pawlenty still continues to flak for the former Senator and the Republican Party.
I'm not suggesting that being a partisan hack is necessarily a bad thing for a career politician like Pawlenty in a Republican primary. But to suggest that placing party over state and country is a "win-win" for Pawlenty ignores a key fact about American elections -- the primary isn't the only election, and the excessively partisan don't tend to do well in general elections. So while Cillizza might not believe it, there are real downsides to Pawlenty's current course of action.