Save the last dance for me redux

December 02, 2006 by barbara

by barbara

Any bets on who John McCain's VP running mate might be? Look no farther (or is it further?) than Minnesota. Yes, I'm serious. Minnesota. Home of two U.S. vice presidents (Humphrey, Mondale). Both of them Democrats, by the way. It grieves me to have to point that out. Minnesota used to be a state so deep, dark blue it would never have been necessary. Finally, though, we're recovering from Le Peste Rouge. We held our collective breath and sure enough, Minnesota has taken on a new blue hue. Read on.

We reclaimed the State House and all but one of our constitutional offices. The one was a biggie, though. We are still encumbered with Governor Tim Pawlenty, who was one among a nationwide handful of Republicans who eked out a win. Lately, Pawlenty has pretended to be morphing from radical red to baby-butt pink. And it appears that John McCain has Pawlenty on his radar as he seeks a running mate in 2008.

An article in today's Star Tribune, aka Strib, begins this way: "In a dance with national political implications being watched closely back home, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty made several very visible appearances in Florida with potential Republican presidential candidate John McCain during a Republican Governors Association meeting this week."

Well, color me prescient. The first post I hung on the Clothesline was about the McCain/Pawlenty dance. Interesting reading, if for no other reason than to underscore that I was just as cranky then as I am now. Oh, hush.

What a difference seven months makes. In May, Republican politicians were tilting so far to the right that the planet was in danger of imbalance by every definition. But as Bush's downfall escalated and as the November 7 elections loomed, most of them began scurrying frantically toward the center, where they collided with Democrats who had already established a beachhead there. Definitely not the place for agoraphobics.

This week at the National Governors Conference, John McCain upstaged Mitt Romney by swooping in and dominating media coverage of the event. Pretty crusty of the crusty dude. It being a governor's event and all, the youthful, effervescent Pawlenty was there. At McCain's side on-stage at one point.

Pawlenty told the NY Times that he'll support McCain if he runs. Sounds pretty straight-forward, coming from the guy who reportedly is on McCain's exploratory committee. But according to the Strib, "Pawlenty's campaign manager, Michael Krueger, who did not return repeated calls seeking comment, told the Associated Press that Pawlenty's support for McCain did not necessarily translate into an endorsement, since there are no announced candidates running." Ya gotta love political-speak.

The Strib quotes Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics, who said, "(Pawlenty) can appear almost Reagan-esque. He's a solid conservative with a happy face put on it. He doesn't come across mean or antagonistic." Aw, jeez. Another Ronald Reagan? Doesn't that just make your gut clench?

It turns out that Minnesota Democrats' bungled run for the governor seat may have national implications. We made Pawlenty the poster-boy for Republicans. They were few and far between. Turning again to the Strib article: "Pawlenty may offer his party a chance to pick up electoral votes in a state that has regularly gone Democratic in presidential voting. At the very least, with Pawlenty on the GOP ticket, Democrats might be forced to spend more money in a state in which they might otherwise limit their effort, Sabato said. With McCain in the West and Pawlenty in the Midwest, the party could cobble together significant electoral votes."

Pawlenty was beatable in 2006. Should not have won. By handing him the keys to the governor's office for another four (or two) years, Minnesota has made the Democrats' job more difficult in 2008. I do think Democrats will take back the White House. But it won't be easy. Pawlenty needs to hope we do. U.S. vice presidents from Minnesota have a dismal track record as presidential candidates. When it comes to the big one, it's pretty much like the Vikings and the Super Bowl, cha cha cha.

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