Is Pawlenty Opting Out of a Third Term Because He Can't Get Elected?!?

Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty announced today that he wouldn't seek a third Governor's term in 2010. The question is why?

Most of the press thinks it's because he intends to run for the Republican Presidential Nomination in 2012 and needs the time to push towards that run.

I think, however, that the miserable publicity and lack of concern for State residents having a full Congressional representation which Pawlenty has built up while supporting Norm Coleman's attempt to steal the senatorial election from Al Franken is the real cause. The people, even those who didn't support Franken in the first place, are pretty pissed-off that Pawlenty didn't certify Franken after the recount, or after the recount review that gave him even more votes, but has backed Coleman's taking the recount to the State Supreme Court where arguments wereplayed out yesterday.

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Are Some Top Republicans Conceding Obama's Second Term?

Any list of potential 2012 Republican Presidential candidates can be broken down into the die-hard wingnuts & wingnut-wannabes (Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, Mike Huckabee, Mark Sanford, Mitt Romney) and the relatively ("relatively" being, well, a relative term) moderate Republicans (Charlie Crist, Jon Huntsman, Tim Pawlenty).

The wingnuts are going full-wingnut, especially since the tea parties.  But a funny thing happened to the relative moderates on the list.  Maybe it's the right-wing purification the GOP has lately undergone, but it looks like the relative moderates are conceding that President Obama will win a second term, and are instead focused on preparing for 2016.  (Perhaps, seeing the Republican Party's unabated hard drift further to the right in the wake of Election Day '08, the relative moderates have also given up on someone who is not a wingnut winning the GOP Presidential nomination in 2012, which also effectively cedes a second term to President Obama.)  Just look at the events of the last week.

Charlie Crist, who had voiced emphatic support for President Obama's economic stimulus bill, opted to run for Senate out of Florida in 2010 rather than re-election to the Governor's office.  In addition to allowing Crist to eject himself from the budget ditch into which he has driven Florida's state economy, this allows Crist to build his national portfolio.  And, oh, by the way, should Crist win the Senate seat, his term would expire in 2016.

Jon Huntsman Jr., who governed conservative Utah but voiced support for not-so-right-wing-friendly policies like same-sex civil unions, has seen his name included more frequently in these discussions of potential Republican Presidental candidates.  Just a few days ago, though, he went from potential Obama opponent to Obama employee effectively as he accepted President Obama's nomination to serve as Ambassador to China.  After establishing his domestic executive resume as Governor of Utah, Huntsman can now shore up his international affairs bona fides in one of the most critically important roles in our nation's diplomatic corps.  As it's unlikely that Huntsman would serve in the Obama Administration for a short period of time and then turn around and run against him in 2012, it seems more likely that he is setting himself up for 2016, seeing President Obama as "too popular to fail" in 2012.

Tim Pawlenty was given an opportunity to earn some post-partisan cred by serving as a moderating force against Norm Coleman's endless appeals in MN-Sen.  Pawlenty could have shown some spine regarding the seating of Senator-elect Al Franken, perhaps urging Coleman to concede should he lose his appeal before the state Supreme Court so that Minnesota could again enjoy its full Senate delegation.  Rather, Pawlenty provided only wishy-washy answers in order to stay in the far-right-wing's good graces, possibly seeking the political table scraps of again being mentioned as a possible running mate in 2012, thereby surrendering membership in this club.

With Obama-Biden ostensibly set to be the Democratic ticket in 2012, and with Vice President Biden turning 74 in 2016 (making a Biden Presidential candidacy in 2016 less than guaranteed), there is no clear Democratic favorite in 2016.  By taking steps that both work with the Obama Administration and likely take themselves out of the 2012 sweepstakes (in which the GOP will likely go further right than any time in recent memory), Crist and Huntsman as setting themselves up to be the post-partisan successor to President Obama in 2016.  Such moves effectively concede that Crist and Huntsman expect President Obama to win a second term and Republicans' further-rightward pull to fail in 2012.

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No, Blocking Franken Isn't a Win-Win for Pawlenty

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.

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Non-Palin News: Minnesota GOP is Purging Override 6

I thought I'd narrow things down a little to a state level and provide some relief from all the Palintology... the Sarah Palin' tall... I know it might Palin comparison.

Rep. Neil Peterson, R-Bloomington, was the first member of that insurgent group to go down. A former mayor of Bloomington and lifelong Republican, Peterson lost his party's House District 41B primary to Bloomington business consultant Jan Schneider, who was endorsed by the GOP last spring.

No good deed goes unpunished.  -- Republican State Representative Neil Peterson

In the latest example of how Republicans have lost their way and are working against common people, the State Republican party strongly contested Neil Peterson due to his participation in the veto override of Governor Tim Pawlenty's refusal to sign the infrastructure gas tax increase last year, resulting in a victory by Jan Schneider, who will go up against the Democratic-Farmer-Labor candidate in the fall.

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RNC speaker calls Palin 'Sarah Pawlenty'

A half hour ago, RNC Co-chair Jo Ann Davidson accidentally referred to Governor Palin as 'Sara Pawlenty'.

"1892 was the last year a Republican National Convention was held in Minneapolis. That was the first Republican convention to seat two women alternates from Wyoming, which you will remember was one of the first states that allowed women the right to vote."

"But the 1892 convention here was another first for Republicans. Judith Ellen Foster, the first president of the National Women's Republican Association and a leader in the women's suffrage movement became the first woman to speak at a Republican convention with these words, 'we are here to help you and we are here to stay.'"

"Her words were prophetic. Ever since that convention, women have been an integral part of the party. And today 116 years later we are holding a convention that will nominate a Republican woman governor - Sarah Pawlenty, our next vice president!"

Watching surrogates try to justify this choice makes it abundantly clear that the outward enthusiasm the GOP is displaying for Palin is only authentic among the religious right.  The GOP is in panic mode, and many republicans are even considering the radical step of selecting a new VP, which means they consider the inevitable damage that would result preferable to dealing with all the controversy she's stirred up so far -- maybe they even know something we don't.  Apparently Ms. Davidson is one of them and made a Freudian slip.  The contract for Palin being withdrawn over at intrade is already up to 15%.

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