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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Tim’s Dim Ideas

According to all the insider accounts, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty was the finalist with Sarah Palin for the 2008 Republican vice presidential nod. He’s now generally considered a major player for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination. In both cases, Pawlenty’s major credential is that he doesn’t offend any significant conservative interest groups.
I’ve already written a couple of pieces suggesting that this guy is a less than a political fireball. But he really does seem to be positioning himself as the ultimate lowest-common-denominator candidate. Just today (via Matt Yglesias), I read a Tim Paw op-ed in Politico that was one of the dumbest, paint-by-the-numbers utterances on record.
This was presumably Tim’s response to the Obama budget, but it could have been written twenty or even thirty years ago, for delivery at some midwestern Lincoln Day Dinner that couldn’t attract a better speaker. Entitled “Ponzi Scheme on the Potomac,” the piece never bothers to explain its initial assertion that the federal budget is indeed anything like a “Ponzi Scheme,” and then descends into incoherent banality.
Pawlenty’s Big Idea, you see, is a constitutional amendment to require a balanced federal budget. This was a very popular idea a long, long time ago, until it became apparent that (1) it was a way for politicians to avoid talking about how, actually, the federal budget should be balanced, and (2) such an amendment would never, ever, be enacted, in no small part because it might require spending cuts and/or tax increases that a majority of politicians, and for that matter, a majority of Americans, would oppose.
Within seconds of wheeling out this antediluvian idea, Pawlenty calls for making Bush’s tax cuts permanent, and for additional tax cuts, which shows you why he favors a balanced budget only in the abstract sense of the term.
Tim Paw’s think piece wheezes to the finish line with a recitation of his proud fiscal record in Minnesota, capped by the boast that he “moved the state out of the Top 10 in tax burden.” Too bad that only 37% of Gopher State voters say they’d vote for him for president, according to a recent Rasmussen survey.
All in all, it’s hard to imagine Pawlenty outclassing Republican rivals like Palin or Huckabee, who, whatever their other abundant demerits, are interesting people who can light up rooms full of rabid conservatives. And it’s hard to imagine this plodding pol chasing Barack Obama around the ring in a general election debate. If this is the best the GOP can offer, please bring him on.

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