Paw-lent-ee

Or, T-Paw, if you prefer.  The Republican former governor of Minnesota is officially running for President in 2012.  He describes himself in this article as the “alternative to Mitt Romney.”  The funny thing is that comment sets up Romney as the favorite, which I don’t even think is the case at this point.  What is true though is that Pawlenty and Romney are the two most legit candidates if the Republican party is looking for serious candidates.  If the GOP is looking for a sideshow, there are several of those available.  And that’s the weird thing, does Pawlenty think he can win?  You’d have to believe that to enter a grueling 16 1/2 months of campaigning.  He believes he can win the nomination and beat Obama.  With what ammunition you ask? The Truth.  Apparently, T-Paw thinks we can handle it.

I disagree.

Not that voters don’t respond to confidence and honesty, they do.  I just can stop thinking that this election is 1996 all over again and there isn’t going to be a great candidate that steps forward and beats Obama.  Instead, I think the Republicans should embrace that, allow Ron Paul to run and shake up the campaign trail with interesting speeches and theories but ultimately focus on 2016.  My more cynical (and conservative) friends probably don’t think America will last that long, but I’m pretty confident it will.

At this point, Romney is probably about as electable as Ron Paul, which is to say he’s not bad, just not quite enough of all the ingredients needed.  Romney/Paul 2012 or something like that would accomplish what I describe above – interesting campaign but ultimately unsuccessful.

I don’t look at Pawlenty that way.

Unfortunately, I’ve heard politicians offer campaigns based on “truth” too many times.  I think campaign fatigue is a real concern for the American people.  Bush’s “compassionate conservatism” disappeared pretty quickly after 9/11/01.  Obama’s “change” ran into the gridlock that is Washington D.C.  Don’t get me wrong.  It’s neither of their faults.  I can understand that after 9/11 President Bush needed to become hyper-attentive to national security issues.  I can understand how President Obama would channel the energy of the campaign directly into high expectations for what he was capable of as President.  But that doesn’t change the fact that campaign after campaign message disappears into the political ether.

So, when Tim Pawlenty gears his image around “The Truth,”  I get a little nostalgic for the 19-year-old political science student who believed what politicians said and spent late nights dreaming up a campaign that made a difference.  In fact, I used to think Pawlenty could be one of the good ones.  I saw him speak at the National Press Club in Washington D.C. a few years ago and he compared the Republican Party to Sam’s Club.  He said, right now the Republicans are like an expensive retail chain or even a country club, where you’re paying for the idea of the thing and not the reality of its value.  Like paying for a brand.  He envisioned a Republican Party like Sam’s Club where you buy in bulk and you get a lot of “value” for your vote.  He spoke to voters like consumers and said if you’re not happy, don’t buy us.

After that speech, I started to think about voters as consumers of government services.  If you do that, it can get pretty tough for people to see the “return” on the investment of their vote.  So, I thought Pawlenty’s theory was alright.  I’m not sure if that’s the Tim Pawlenty we’re gonna get in the 2012 campaign but it will be interesting to watch.  Am I suddenly a T-Paw fan? No.  I still believe in change.  But…I do love truth.

I think Pawlenty is jumping the gun by running in 2012.  But since NPR was informing people how to pronounce his name this afternoon, maybe he just thinks it takes 5 1/2 years for the American people to recognize you on a ballot.  Although Obama 2008 would disprove that theory.  Either way, I hope he doesn’t become “just another Republican” and actually has something innovative to say.  Huh, a politician telling the truth. Now that would be a change.

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