The conventional wisdom for the earliest stretch of the 2016 GOP presidential primary was that Scott Walker is the closest to this season’s Tim Pawlenty: the nice guy you like, but who can’t convince you to actually vote for him.
Fast forward, and the Wisconsin governor has indeed tumbled badly, but he’s a lot more Rick Perry than Tim Pawlenty. The union busting, recall winning governor initially impressed GOP voters, particularly in Iowa, with his next-door-neighbor persona and tough talk about his record. He maintained a solid polling position even during much of Trump-mania. Walker’s collapse has all to do with a series of gaffes and flip flops that gave voters and insiders reason to doubt whether he is ready for prime time.
At this point – and that’s the caveat – it appears that this season’s Tim Pawlenty may be Marco Rubio. The Florida senator is fresh, charismatic, Hispanic and from a key swing state. He consistently gets high favorability and “could vote for” ratings amongst GOP voters. Rubio also polls the strongest versus Hillary Clinton compared his major rivals. Unlike Walker, Rubio hasn’t made any major gaffes, and showed solid issue proficiency and political skill during the first debate and other occasions on the trail.
Nevertheless, Rubio seems to be going nowhere. According to the RCP average of recent polls, he is a distant fourth nationally; a distant seventh in Iowa; and a distant tenth in supposedly hospitable New Hampshire.
You can excuse Rubio for polling behind figures like Trump and Carson for now, and assume that voters will eventually settle for a safer, less dazzling nominee – as they do virtually every cycle. However, it’s hard to explain why he can’t surpass mid-single digits anywhere; remains behind Jeb everywhere; and is eclipsed by people like Ted Cruz and Rand Paul in New Hampshire. And why would Rubio be at 6% – a whopping 13% behind Jeb – in his home state?
It is still entirely possible, based on the fundamentals, that Rubio will rise to a winning position by the time voters get to actually vote for their prospective nominee, when the campaign is in fuller swing and the ads are all up. At the same time, every week that goes by where Rubio cannot get past the kiddie portion of the top tier, the chances that he is indeed 2016’s Tim Pawlenty increase.
What is baffling about this, though, is that Rubio isn’t suffering from the fundamental goofs that Pawlenty did either. Rubio had no Ames – like letdown, he raised lots of cash, and didn’t show weakness on the trail as Pawlenty did versus Romney in the “Obamneycare” debate.
Rather, Rubio’s mediocrity may be that an intriguing biography, personal likability and electability for electability’s sake are weak sauce even for a smooth establishment candidate. The fact is that despite holding powerful political positions for years, Rubio has little to stand on – less than establishment winners like McCain and Romney had.
Trump is the guy who can’t be bought off and speaks his mind. Carson is the brilliant conservative non-politician. Fiorina is the fiery female non-politician who can take it to Hillary. Kasich pulled off the first balanced budget since we first landed on the moon, and turned around the fiscal woes of a major swing state. Scott Walker defeated the unions in a Blue state and won three statewide elections in four years. Ted Cruz has Ivy League credentials and the guts to fight Democrats and GOP senators. Rand Paul brought libertarian philosophy to the forefront of the GOP. Mike Huckabee is a powerful orator and so-con warrior. As a former executive, even Jeb – who has difficulty shining in a strong field – can talk of solid accomplishments in areas such as taxes and education.
Rubio’s case, from this perspective, is a lot weaker. It is telling that the senator’s own campaign website does not list a single specific accomplishment of his career, either on the statewide or federal level. It instead focuses on his personal bio and positions on various issues. The area in which he showed the most direct leadership – immigration – is also where he failed most glaringly.
Will an inspirational bio, smooth skills and a forward looking vision be enough to surpass a large field where several candidates come across as both more colorful and qualified to lead?
Nevertheless, as Tim Pawlenty proved four years ago, everyone’s second choice can become an afterthought very quickly.
Simon Blum is a freelance journalist and marketing copywriter. Follow Simon on Twitter @sbpundit.
The Republican National Committee recently began an on-line straw poll asking its members which candidate they would like to see. The respondents are to circle any three. The list includes:
Write-in votes are allowed.
The results have not been published anywhere that I’ve seen, and I don’t particularly wish to sign up just so they can get my email address to spam me. However, if you are inclined to participate, here is the link.
In case you missed it, today, Politico reported that Tim Pawlenty has left his position as Romney campaign national co-chair to become the president and CEO of the Financial Services Roundtable, an influential banking lobbying group:
Pawlenty, the former Minnesota governor who was on the short list of candidates to be Mitt Romney’s vice presidential running mate, will replace Steve Bartlett, who earlier this year announced he was leaving his post as the group’s president and chief executive officer. Bartlett is a former member of Congress and mayor of Dallas.
Pawlenty will earn $1.8 million annually as head of the Roundtable, according to a person with knowledge of the compensation package. Bartlett received $1.8 million in total compensation in 2009, according to the group’s most recent publicly available tax records.
Pawlenty will take over effective Nov. 1.
…Pawlenty said he informed the Romney campaign a “couple of days ago” of his decision and that as a condition for employment at the Roundtable, he has also agreed not to take a position with a possible Romney administration.
This, quite frankly, shocked me, as I had acquiesced to the prevailing opinion that T-Paw had cemented his future in a Romney administration with the loyalty he showed after ending his own campaign.
On another level, I also came away disappointed, for two reasons:
1. Becoming the top lobbyist for one of the public’s most despised industries casts a formidable shadow over Pawlenty’s future prospects for electoral office, as it severely damages the populist credibility that propelled his career.
2. This likely reduces the chances that Mitt will forgo the opportunity to have a “Sister Souljah” moment of his own and campaign on bold financial reform. James Pethokoukis elaborates:
Now I would like to believe Pawlenty is leaving now because Team Romney is about to unveil a dramatic financial reform proposal that his future employer might balk at.
But I doubt it.
I’ve repeatedly talked up the obvious political advantage for Romney of a call to restructure Wall Street. In one fell swoop, Romney would a) distance himself from the Bush presidency, b) demonstrate to skeptical voters that he’s not just representing the interests of elite financiers, c) show he understands that the Great Recession means American needs fundamental change in addition to tax and entitlement reform (neither of which I heard much about at the GOP convention, by the way.)
Rumors are starting to fly that Tim Pawlenty is a strong candidate for Hillary Clinton’s current job. From the Daily Caller:
TAMPA, Fla. — Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty is emerging as an attractive secretary of state option in a Romney administration for conservatives who believe in an assertive American foreign policy.
Pawlenty has displayed a strong interest in foreign policy topics both while he was governor of Minnesota and after. And while people close to Pawlenty say that the governor is not campaigning for the post, he certainly wouldn’t turn it down if offered it.
Phil Musser, a former adviser to Pawlenty, told TheDC his old boss ”is not angling for anything.”
Another former adviser to Pawlenty, who preferred not to be identified, concurred, saying Pawlenty was too modest and loyal to campaign for the position.
But, he added, Pawlenty “is deeply knowledgeable on foreign policy and that kind of Cabinet post would play to his strengths.”…
I have no opinion on the subject other than I know Mitt values competence over practically anything else. Does T-Paw have what it takes to be a great Secretary of State? Are there Republicans out there who could do a better job?
What do you guys think?
There you have it. So, that day off back on August 6 was evidently spent planning the new Veep rollout since the original plan had to be scrapped due to the Sikh memorial service. (And I am glad that I read the tea leaves at least partially correctly when I predicted the rollout for Friday the 10th. Heh.) Looks like once again, Pawlenty is stuck holding the “always the bridesmaid, never the bride” card. Someday, I would love to know who the other names on that list of twenty were, and when and how the runners-up were notified.
These ideas began as a comment on my colleague Matthew Miller’s helpful reminder of Paul Ryan’s sheer brilliance when it comes to philosophical framing of the choice we face this November. I decided to turn it into a full-fledged post, to open up some debate on one of my favorite political topics, the Veepstakes, just ahead of Gov. Romney’s final decision.
Back in April, I advocated Congressman Ryan as Gov. Romney’s best choice for VP. Despite the scuttlebutt that Tim Pawlenty has pulled into a commanding lead on Mitt’s Veep depth chart, I maintain my preference of Ryan (and this comes from someone totally in the tank for T-Paw back during the primary campaign). I also take the view that Ryan would actually help more than Pawlenty among younger voters and moderates, by improving the ticket’s – and the Republican Party’s – brand.
First and foremost, Rep. Ryan would bring enormous intellectual heft to the ticket, as evidenced once again by the videos in the aforementioned Matthew Miller post. I don’t mean this to denigrate T-Paw as an intellectual lightweight, but few, if any, can better articulate the merits of capitalism, free enterprise, and limited government than our dear Budget Committee Chairman. This would go a long way toward changing the perception of the GOP (among young voters, moderates, suburbanites, and other growing demographics) from a rural-dominated group deficient in critical thinking to a liberty-focused, philosophically sophisticated bunch – closer to the positioning the party established during the Reagan years.
Many in Romney’s corner have voiced concern that tapping Ryan would shift the conversation away from the economy and onto his budget proposals. I may stand alone here, but I would welcome this shift if it changed the target of the Democrats’ attacks from Romney’s wealth – their current topic du jour – to entitlement reform. Class warfare is very powerful politically. It plays into voters’ insecurities and jealousies. People can do scary things when their emotions take over. And like it or not, Mitt already struggles with the “empathy” test. That, along with the electoral efficacy of class warfare, largely accounts for why Democrats have trained their fire on Mitt’s wealth so often in the campaign, and they show no signs of discontinuing. If he figures to get attacked for his success, anyway, why not at least strive to extract some benefit from it, by going all-in on long-term, structural budget reform with Rep. Ryan?
And that brings me to my next point: adding a counter-punch to the Romney campaign. Mitt has drawn criticism for relying too heavily on negativity, instead of following up his critiques of the President with proposals of his own. What better way to do that than to add arguably the biggest policy wonk among Republican elected officials in Washington, not to mention one of the most persuasive salesmen of conservative reform? Instead of simply arguing, in effect, “Obama’s policies stink,” Team Romney can go on the offensive with, “Obama’s policies stink, and we can do better. Here’s how.” We must not underestimate the significance of this; voters don’t always just want to vote against someone or something, they prefer to vote for something else, if given the chance. This especially holds true if the person they would have to vote against retains strong popularity on a personal level.
Last but not least, Ryan has spent 13 years in Washington. While that in itself carries some risk, it also means he has forged valuable relationships and connections on the Hill. Recent administrations have demonstrated the advantages of a vice president well-versed in the legislative process. As such, a Vice President Ryan could prove invaluable with spearheading a President Romney’s agenda through Congress. All the executive experience in the world doesn’t matter very much if the president can’t get any legislation passed. Ryan’s ability to help in this realm adds the figurative cherry on top for his case.
In the end, Paul Ryan may not have the greatest chances of getting the eventual nod from Gov. Romney, but when we take a step back and analyze the long-term implications of this campaign, he remains the best option.
Jonathan Karl reports that two of the potential Veeps have been put on “standby” for an announcement. I’m assuming standby means “don’t plan anything else”. Given that, who seems to be otherwise occupied? Well, the Republican Governor’s Association has meetings all this week and Jindal, McDonnell, and Christie are attending. So they’re out, I suppose? Curiously, the buzz around Ryan seems to be heating up and Karl reports that Ryan makes the final three (with Portman and Pawlenty). It seems like we will indeed get our launch prior to the swing-state tour. Who will it be?
Update: It appears that Romney will be making an appearance at one of these meetings, so perhaps the attendees aren’t quite out of consideration.
Political Ticker reveals some details about an upcoming multi-state bus tour which are being leaked out by the Romney camp — and quotes the source of the leak as saying, “Sounds like VP week…”
On August 11, Romney (and his VP?) will be campaigning in the three largest media markets in Virginia – metro D.C., Richmond, and Norfolk. August 12 takes him through the media markets in North Carolina. August 13 finds him doing a Florida swing through Jacksonville, Orlando, and Miami. And tour dates are being added in Ohio – and potentially other states – for the end of the tour.
It sure sounds like a VP rollout to me, as well, and the timing really makes perfect sense. It gives Mitt and his VP two weeks to campaign together, building momentum up to the RNC on August 27. The Romney campaign, for what it’s worth, have confirmed that the leaked schedule is accurate, but are saying only that Romney will be discussing his vision for the economy during the bus tour.
Last week, I rated Rob Portman and Bobby Jindal in the five categories of Mitt Romney’s economic agenda. Here’s the second round. A quick recap of my rating system.
My rating system is pretty simple. I’ll rate each potential VP on a scale of 1-5 in each category. A rating of 1 means the VP will hurt the Romney narrative in this category; a rating of 2 means the VP will neither hurt nor help, etc.
Now how am I determining what constitutes a 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5? Roughly but, I think, reasonably. A rating of 3 indicates the VP has meaningfully dealt with this issue but it hasn’t been a focus of his career. So, for instance, a generic governor would receive a 3 for the “balanced budget” issue. All governors balance budgets, but most are constitutionally required to do so, diminishing the accomplishment. A rating of 4 indicates the VP has made the issue a key goal in his career but hasn’t necessarily accomplished much of significance. Someone like Chris Christie might receive a 4 for the “economic freedom” plank, due to his prominent- but somewhat unsuccessful- push to lower NJ taxes. A rating of 5 indicates the VP has made the issue a key goal in his career and has major accomplishments towards that goal. A Condoleeza Rice might warrant a 5 in the “trade” plank, due to her work as Secretary of State.
First up, Tim Pawlenty
Energy (3)- In some ways, Pawlenty seems a particularly bad fit for this category, given that his one great foray into energy policy- cap and trade- is also his one great conservative heresy. That said, this is a general election. Romney’s focus on energy policy might be aided by a VP who’s been favorable to something other than oil and gas. It’s an “all-of-the-above” strategy, after all. Pawlenty may hurt with conservatives but could plausibly, on the margins, enhance Romney’s appeal to indies.
Trade (2)- Lots of trade missions as Governor, but no one who’s only served as a state official can seriously enhance Romney’s ability to pitch trade policy.
Balanced Budget (3)– The same deal with Jindal: as a Governor, he’s balanced budgets, and he favors a balanced budget amendment, but he hasn’t been a particular leader on this issue.
Education/Workforce Training (4)– Pawlenty rather notably spared K-12 education funding during his budget trimming in Minnesota. It’s fair to say he made education a priority. He’s talked, in the past, about the inefficient 1950s education model, and promoted choice and innovation. That said, he had limited success implementing this agenda.
Economic Freedom (4)- Pawlenty held the line on taxes in Minnesota but notably failed to pass any of his proposed major tax cuts. Additionally, he managed small, but meaningful reforms on health care, such as implementing a rating system which allows potential customers to compare price and quality.
Total Score: 16/25
Next up, Paul Ryan:
Energy (3)– There’s little in the record to suggest Ryan has any affinity for energy policy. His sponsored bills deal with other issues. That said, the Path to Prosperity covers this issue, bumping him up from a two.
Trade (4)– He gets to three simply by virtue of being a 7-term congressman (i.e, a national politician). Again, the Path to Prosperity brings him up another notch.
Balanced Budget (4)– On the merits, Ryan deserves a 5 here, having done more than any other politician to bring the national budget attention. Also, he’s the budget committee chair. But he suffers in the same way that Portman suffers- his connection with the budget isn’t an unalloyed good. He’d help Romney make the case for a balanced budget, but he’d give Obama a larger target.
Education/Workforce Training (5)– The Path to Prosperity is shot through with detail about reforming the social safety net. Of note: Ryan’s proposal (embraced by Romney) to convert workforce training programs into education scholarships. This aspect of the Ryan budget is not particularly controversial and his expertise here is purely positive.
Economic Freedom (5)– If I could give out 10s, Ryan would merit one. The record speaks for itself. He has spent the better part of a decade making the case for a fundamentally more market-oriented society, while preserving- but modernizing- the social safety net. Outside of another Paul (Ron), no politician in America is most easily associated with the concept of economic freedom.
Total Score: 21/25