Tim Pawlenty bowed to reality today, reality which the rest of us understood for a long time. He had no shot from the beginning. Actually, there is no rational reason he is not at the head of the polls or at least near it. But, presidential campaigns are not any more rational than the stock market.
The last time we elected a president who looked really prepared in terms of experience (forget policy, because half of the people are going to disagree) was George Herbert Walker Bush. And before him Nixon. Governors don't have federal experience and Senators don't have executive experience. Depending on his experience, a VP might have less experience than either. But, I've always said, experience means something when you are in office - although there is more than one kind of experience, and it can be a factor in presidential elections, but it doesn't mean so much. What I really care about is - does this candidate agree with me and do I like him? (Yes, or her. So tedious)
Pawlenty has some executive experience - enough to pass the test for most people. But, he is not particularly likeable. I don't mean he is a bad guy, and he might be a great neighbor or friend. But, he does not have any charisma. He shouldn't feel bad, because Huntsman has less than he has and Paul (who I favor of those with even a 100 to1 shot) and Gingrich might come off as eggheads or sourpusses to some. Not surprisingly, I'd rather listen to a speech by either of them than anyone else on the stage the other night or most other politicians.
Pawlenty had to hit a home run this past Thursday, and he tried. He tried to be funny, which, for almost everyone is a bad idea in a debate. He tried to show he was tough. He went after Romney's wealth. It was a joke, but I thought it was a poor one and made me sympathize with Romney. He went after Bachmann's record and ended up looking like a complainer and a bully. He tried to show he was passionate and he should never do that. He's awful at it.
I know it is very hard to do what they do. I would not want to do it in a million years and would blow it on the first question (because, of course, I'd be honest). That's why so few people are good at it. I've seen Herman Cain interviewed on C-Span (and have heard him on the radio) and he is actually quite personable, but you'd barely know it from the debate. I've seen Rick Santorum on C-Span and I not only really liked him, but felt he was a very compassionate guy. In the debate none of that came out. Newt can be really interesting, but he came across as tempermental and wonkish.
And, I know T-Paw really wanted it. I felt that with him more than the others, but Romney may just hide it marginally better. That part of it makes me feel bad for him, because I am a sentimental old sop.
Let's see what I've written about him before this month:
June, 2010: "Who is out there with the personality and the support to drub Obama? Right now, guys like Bobby Jindal and Tim Pawlenty just don’t seem to have it – personality I mean."
December, 2010: "Pawlenty is still thinking about it, but he just doesn’t have the juice."
February, 2011: "Tim Pawlenty is busy trying to get anyone to notice him, but he hasn’t announced."
March, 2011: "Tim Pawlenty, who may have the best nickname, this time around, T-Paw, is still testing the water, but he won’t even get into his bathing suit yet. . .Gov. Pawlenty is practicing his anti-gay rhetoric to help him win them over. It rather disgusts me, but he seems to believe it will help. In the meantime, I have some advice for him – never, ever give another stem-winding speech. He’s just not good at it and it doesn’t come out as sincere."
May, 2011: "Pawlenty – A strong possibility but he would not last past Iowa, if he gets that far. Why do I feel a little sorry for this guy? Maybe it’s because he seems to want it so much."
May (later), 2011: "Tim Pawlenty I feel sorry for, as he is desperately trying to whip up some support from the conservative base, but he has done it by jumping on the easy red meat issues. Supporting (or, I guess, not to be opposed) to the Ground Zero Mosque was unpatriotic, he said. Ironically, he had previously set up a Shariah compliant mortgage program (which just really means something to do with interest – Orthodox Jews have also found a legal end round to interest on loans) in Minnesota, and then realizing it was political death in the Republican primaries, cancelled it. I’m not even sure if I’m for the program because I don’t know enough about it, but, cancelling it for political purposes was a craven act if there ever was one. He came out heavily against the repeal of don’t ask/don’t tell as if had been a repeal of the declaration of war against Germany and Japan (okay, okay, that's hyperbole) and said he would repeal it. He also vetoed a gay marriage bill. He recently said “The Constitution was designed to protect people of faith from government, not to protect government from people of faith.” He should read his James Madison. It was both. June, 2011: "Pawlenty I thought a strong possibility and he went in too. He wants to be president even more than Romney, I think, but has little chance. He is a Republican Mike Dukakis."
July, 2011: "T-Paw is fighting like crazy, with the only Iowa tv ad out, an Ames Poll website, door to door canvassing and so on.
If Pawlenty wants to stay in, of course, he has to do something, but how much does his precious Ames Poll even mean? How much does Iowa even mean?"
I was kind of rough on him, now that I look back. Who wants to be called the Mike Dukakis of the Republicans? But, it was accurate. Not that I'm overly proud of it. It was a pretty easy prediction for anyone who isn't in the media or a pundit. At risk of denting the reputation (of which only I appear to be aware) I did see that way back in June, 2010, the first time I focused on that, I praised Pawlenty along with Christie and Daniels as the grown ups in the group, but all too boring. I really have to take that back about Christie. Now I'll never be a pundit.
You know what is even sadder for Tim? No one will even care about getting his endorsement.
Just for fun, with no hope of success - who's out next? This is much harder than guessing who is getting into the race. Huntsman, Santorum, Gingrich and maybe Cain. No telling when reality sets in for them.