Can Pawlenty Win Over the Tea Partiers?

October 26th, 2010 at 5:17 pm | 8 Comments |

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President Obama was in Minnesota this weekend and Tim Pawlenty, Minnesota governor and unannounced 2012 hopeful, prepared a short video welcoming him.  In it,Pawlenty introduced the president to a number of Minnesota phrases like “ooftah” and “yikes” and then used them to knock him on items like federal spending increases and the deficit.

Certainly there is nothing new about a presidential hopeful taking shots at the current officeholder over policy, but Pawlenty and his Midwestern pleasantness offers a peculiar specimen.  Pawlenty employs quaint, inoffensive colloquialisms, combining them with what should be biting attacks over policy failures.  The result: instead of feeling his or her blood boil, the listener feels a sense of calm optimism.  Pawlenty goes on to contrast Obama’s record with his own very impressive and very innovative record in Minnesota.  It’s this quality that led Michael Gerson to coin Pawlenty as “Minnesota’s Ronald Reagan.”  It’s this same quality that brings into question whether Pawlenty, or any other mild-mannered and thoughtful candidate, can really be the man of the hour in today’s volatile political climate.  When Pawlenty bites, especially when he bites with his Midwestern idioms, you just can’t get angry.  The Cohen brothers, Minnesota natives themselves, masterfully demonstrated this phenomenon in the movie Fargo, where you couldn’t help but chuckle while crazed Minnesotans performed terrible acts of murder.

The question then becomes, can Pawlenty win this way?  More specifically, can Pawlenty channel the anger of the Tea Party, a group that he defends and supports enthusiastically, into something positive?  Furthermore, can he bridge the gap between the angry Tea Partiers and the increasingly overlooked body of GOP moderates and (most importantly) independent voters that have grown tired of Obama’s rhetoric and lack of progress on the economy?  When you listen to Palin go after Obama, using the same sorts of phrases Pawlenty does, the result is so strikingly different.  She has built her image upon scorning the liberal elite and “lamestream media” for their inability to use “common sense” solutions to our nation’s problems, but laces the message with a healthy dose of bitterness and spite born of the sense of marginalization that is such a motivating factor for much of the Tea Party.

Palin gets people riled up, she throws punches and they land.  People like that.  Pawlenty does not have that ability.  But America does not rally, at least not en masse, behind angry candidates.  Ultimately Palin cannot win enough hearts and minds to take a credible shot at the White House.  Pawlenty’s hope lies in being the man that can bridge the gap between the anger of the Tea Party, the mainstream GOP, and the disenchanted voters in the middle.  Can he do that?  Can anyone do that?  Some seem to think so, or at least hope so.  He has received flattering columns from Michael Gerson, and George Will.  As Will notes, Limbaugh ranks him number two to Palin, and Dick Armey has his eye on him.  At the end of the day though, this attention isn’t worth much if his voice can’t be heard.

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8 Comments so far ↓

  • Saladdin

    In a word, no. Pawlenty, like Mitch Daniels is smart and funny, but lacks charisma. The better question would be, will the GOP nominate someone who makes Bob Dole seem exciting? I like T-Paw, but he’d barely beat Obama in his homestate of MN. I can’t really get how a midwest gov with very little national name recognition (except in GOP or DC circles) can both fend off charges that he’s not a RINO (especially in the Primaries v. Romney, Huckabee, Daniels, Giuliani, et al), and successfully brand himself as a “Wal-Mart Republican”.

    Also, Edwards really tried to get the poor and disenfranchised to vote, but the anger comes not from the poor, but the relatively well off. Those aren’t really T-Paw’s folks, more like Romney’s.

  • CD-Host

    If he thinks that all he needs to change is replace Texas cutsy with Minnesota cutsy then no.

    Pawlenty is competent but Obama is more competent. So the big question would be, “what the point”? That’s the question he needs to answer. Other than an R after his name what does he really bring to the table?

  • Gus

    In short, no. Pawlenty has the anti-tax, anti-government bona fides, but he’s the Republican Fritz Mondale. Milquetoast, boring, so gosh darn Minnesotan. Look at his laughable performance at CPAC. “Take a nine iron and smash the window out of big government”? Sheesh, what a stupid line, but he probably thought it was badass. In the highly unlikely event he manages to win the nomination, I doubt he’ll win his home state. He didn’t win a majority in either of his gubernatorial elections.

  • Posting From Fake America

    He won’t make it through the primary. Just look at some of the new GOP candidates this cycle. If Christine O’Donnell and Carl Paladino can win GOP primaries in Delaware and NY then a level-headed unassuming candidate like Pawlenty doesn’t stand a chance.

  • armstp

    “Can Pawlenty Win Over the Tea Partiers?”

    Anything is possible with these Tea Partiers, as they do not know if they are coming or going and are basically full of shit! It depends on how much Pawlenty wants to sell his soul to the devil!

    It will be a race to the bottom for all these guys: Pawlenty, Romney, Jindal, Bush, Daniels, Christie, etc. Palin, Gingrich and Huckabee are already at the bottom.

  • chatterton4

    This article might have more credibility if Mr. McNitt could spell “uff da” and Coen properly.

  • Madeline

    Probably not. However, the tea party will be a distant memory by the time the 2012 campaign starts.