Thursday, October 1, 2009

Editorial: Why I’d Put My Money on “TPaw”

Summary: Dave at WAYLA explains why he thinks Governor Tim Pawlenty (R-MN) will be the man to face President Obama in 2012.

If you ask the average American if they think Tim Pawlenty will run for president in 2012, chances are they’ll ask you “who’s Tim Pawlenty?” So my guess is most Americans wouldn’t think he could be the Republican nominee in three years. How’s he going to win if no one’s ever heard of him?

Ask any political junkie or insider, however, if they think Pawlenty plans on running and they’ll probably answer “uh, he already is.”

That’s why I was surprised when only a handful of the people surveyed for our “Who Are You Looking at for 2012” poll - which was composed of mostly political junkies and insiders - said they expect Pawlenty to win the GOP nomination.

So why do I think he’ll pull off the nomination?

Simply put, he’s doing everything right. From his 2010 efforts and the team he’s assembling to the media presence he’s been getting and the speeches he’s been able to deliver, Pawlenty is on-track for the 2012 GOP nomination with a winning strategy.

Focusing on 2010

He recently launched his new political action committee - Freedom First PAC - which will give money to Republican candidates for 2010, and he was all too happy to take up the Vice Chairmanship of the Republican Governors Association when Gov. Haley Barbour (R-MS) moved up to replace Gov. Mark Sanford (R-SC) following the revelations of his extramarital affair.

He says he focused on getting a few wins with those two ventures in 2010 since he’s not running for re-election in the Land of 10,000 Lakes. Is it a selfless act of dedication to his party? Not when you consider the donor lists and activist networks he’s going to get out of it for a 2012 run.

The Team He’s Assembling

Pawlenty is also quietly piecing together a team of strategists that will do wonders for him in the Republican primaries.

From an article in Politico:

[Pawlenty] will announce Thursday the support of a group of high-level political strategists and donors, complemented by a handful of top new media consultants, POLITICO has learned.

Pawlenty, under the radar of D.C.’s political community, has locked up some of the key operatives who engineered then-President George W. Bush reelection campaign — a significant feat for a little-known Midwestern politician.

…Pawlenty, who previously has had little political infrastructure, is now being advised by a trio of GOP consultants with presidential experience: Terry Nelson, Sara Taylor and Phil Musser.

And in formally opening his political action committee, Freedom First, Thursday, Pawlenty will also announce two co-chairmen, William Strong, a Morgan Stanley vice chairman, and former Rep. Vin Weber (R-Minn.), both of whom are heavyweight GOP figures, along with a list of prominent Minnesota donors.

In addition to a high-dollar gala launch for the PAC in Minneapolis in November, Pawlenty is planning a Washington fundraiser for late October designed to acquaint the governor with the Beltway’s most influential Republicans. Helping to coordinate the governor’s GOP outreach in the nation’s capital is Sam Geduldig, a well-connected lobbyist and former senior aide to Reps.

Serving as the PAC’s counsel is Michael Toner, a veteran campaign lawyer in Washington. Alex Conant, a native Minnesotan and former Republican National Committee spokesman, will serve as communications director.

The governor has also inked political technology consultants Patrick Ruffini, Mindy Finn, Patrick Hynes and Liz Mair to develop what Pawlenty advisers hope will be the most sophisticated new-media presence of any Republican in the nation.

Sure, the average American might not know who Tim Pawlenty is yet, but that’s exactly why he’s putting a team like this together to raise money and create a greater national presence. He’s making sure that Republicans all across America know who he is come the Iowa Caucus in 2012.

And they’re not kidding about that New Media presence strategy. Just take a look at the slick new Freedom First PAC’s website (the domain of which is - “coincidently” - and you’ll see all sorts of New Media tools available for supporters. It even identifies him as “TPaw”, the shorthand name given to him by the blogosphere! They also ask supporters to “RT #tpaw” on Twitter.

But it doesn’t stop there. He’s also - evidently - calling Mitt Romney operatives who are mid-level on the former candidate’s hierarchy, seeing if they’ll come over to his side should the two face up in 2012 (which they probably will) and Romney hangs on to his top-level workers.

Bulking Up the Media Presence

TPaw knows that being well known in the political community is not enough. That’s why he’s getting more stories about him in the blogosphere (and, yes, he’s doing it rather successfully) and appearing more often on cable news.

Just search “Pawlenty” on YouTube and you’ll find a good number of videos of him on cable news - especially Fox News, the network of the conservative base he needs to appeal to - such as this one:

Speaking Across the Country

A well-known tactic for building a national base of support going into an election year is doing the “speaking tour” - speaking at as many conservative or Republican events as possible (if you’re seeking the GOP nomination, of course) to build up a network of smaller donors and volunteers.

Before the recent Family Research Council’s Value Voters Summit, for example, he held a conference call with a team of advisers, including pollster Tony Fabrizio and longtime conservative strategist Greg Mueller, to help shape his speech and general approach at an event where he got rave reviews and finished a surprising third in the straw poll.

So far, Pawlenty appears to be outdoing the other Republicans on the tour, making something along the lines of 50 to 100 speeches throughout the country this year.

Sarah Palin, the darling of the GOP base - conversely - is having trouble getting booked for such speeches according to a recent article in the New York Post. Romney - the other prominent Republican name being thrown out there for 2012 - has actually been a victim of how TPaw “has used public appearances and op-eds to criticize the health care plan Romney put in place in Massachusetts.”

Speaking of his Opponents…

Pawlenty’s primary opponents will have their own difficulties. Romney’s record in Massachusetts will continue to hurt his image with the conservative base - especially on the issue of healthcare. Palin, while still popular among the Republican hard-liners, is nonetheless becoming viewed as “unelectable” within her own party.

Others are facing their own problems. Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-LA) for example seems to have lost a bit of popularity at home this year because of his presidential ambitions, something we said was sure to hurt him if he ran nationally. As a relatively moderate politician (and yes, he’s simply playing to the base right now) Pawlenty is still fairly popular in Minnesota (albeit, Minnesotans apparently aren’t crazy about his national ambitions either).

Other possible candidates mentioned in our June survey included former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA), former HHS Sec. Tommy Thompson (R-WI), House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) and even Gen. David Patraeus. But none of these potential candidates have shown much indication that they’re running.

Now, of course, I may be wrong. Politics is a difficult spectator sport because you simply never know what’s coming next. But barring anything unexpected (like Pawlenty having an affair or killing someone) at this point I just can’t imagine anyone else securing that nomination.

Politico reports that there is an emerging belief among many established Republicans that TPaw is becoming the only viable option left for the GOP’s 2012 White House prospects. Not only do I agree with that sentiment (if I take the Republican perspective) but I think he’s becoming the candidate with the best chance of winning the Republican primaries and taking on President Obama in the first place.

1 comment:

Zach W. said...

Yeah, the more I ponder a TPaw candidacy I come to realize he may be the most formidable candidate the GOP can muster in 2012.