Good N'Pawlenty
06-30-2008
Whenever political observers talk about potential Republican vice presidential picks, one of the first names to roll off of their tongues is Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty. His Midwestern working-class roots, personal connection to the evangelical community, and long-standing loyalty to John McCain, have made him a frequent object of vice presidential speculation. So I was excited to get a close look at him on Sunday, during his guest appearance as a McCain surrogate on This Week (video: Which candidate is walking the walk?). My overall reaction to his performance is that Pawlenty would be a good option for McCain, but is not necessarily a must-pick candidate. Pawlenty did a solid job of defending McCain as someone who has been willing to take strong stands on the issues, even when it was politically unpopular to do so, while also depicting Barack Obama as being unwilling to buck the liberal wing of is party.
 
But Pawlenty had the misfortune of being paired on the show with former Clinton aide and current Illinois Congressman Rahm Emanuel. If you are unfamiliar with Emanuel, he has been variously described as pugilistic, unrelenting, and eviscerating, and as someone who practices a take-no-prisoners style of politics. And Emanuel did not disappoint on Sunday, professing his longtime friendship for Pawlenty, while simultaneously noting how poor Minnesota's economic performance has been in recent years. Once Emanuel got on a roll, Pawlenty seemed curiously passive, which is not a helpful trait given the attack dog role traditionally reserved for the vice presidential nominee. In 2000, Joe Lieberman was famously criticized for being too friendly with Dick Cheney, during their vice presidential debate. If Governor Pawlenty wants to have a shot at joining the Republican ticket, he will need to show that he is one soft-spoken Midwesterner who also packs a good counterpunch.


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