It was a nice run:
Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty made it official Sunday morning during a conference call with his team; the campaign will end following a poor showing at the 2011 Ames Straw Poll.
Pawlenty thanked staff members for their work but said that the campaign, which had pinned much of its hopes to Iowa, needed to receive a boost from the straw poll.
Pawlenty supporters march into Hilton Coliseum at Iowa State University Saturday while chanting “T-Paw! T-Paw!” Although there was no lack of enthusiasm among supporters, there simply weren’t enough of them to keep the former Minnesota Governor in the 2012 race.
Speaking later to ABC News on the program “This Week,” Pawlenty repeated his claim that the campaign needed help that the straw poll didn’t provide.
“I’m very, very grateful for the people of Iowa. I wish it would have been different. Obviously, the pathway forward for me doesn’t really exist, and so we’re going to end the campaign,” he said.
If he hadn’t spent eight years trying to destroy my state, I could almost feel sorry for Pawlenty. He’s been running for president since 2006, when Mike Hatch’s eleventh-hour meltdown helped Gov. Timmy somehow eke out a slim victory. As one of the last GOP governors standing, Pawlenty became something of a superstar in GOP circles simply by existing. Never mind that he’d never won a majority of Minnesota voters over; he’d won elections.
But having lived in this state during the Pawlenty administration, I’m very glad that he won’t be our next president, and not just because his policy positions are anathema to mine. Pawlenty in many ways represents the worst of politics. Since his time as Minnesota House Majority Leader, Pawlenty has been big on the backroom deal that looks good if one doesn’t look too closely at it. Pawlenty claimed to have never raised taxes in Minnesota. That’s true — because he called his cigarette tax a “fee,” and because he pretends that the Twins stadium tax he authorized isn’t really a tax, and because he ignores the spike in property taxes that resulted from the state’s draconian cuts in local government aid. Pawlenty eliminated the consideration of inflation in calculating the state budget simply because it made it somewhat possible to balance the budget without raising taxes — despite the obvious fact that inflation will happen, and that not dealing with it up front means that we’ll have to deal with it later. And most unforgivably, Pawlenty balanced the budget one year by delaying payments to school districts, forcing them to borrow money to meet payroll. Which, of course, costs school districts money.
In short, Pawlenty governed as a have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too leader, one who argued that we needn’t raise taxes to have everything we want, as long as we don’t spend money on infrastructure and push needed fixes off to future generations.
Pawlenty presided over the symbolic result of this kind of short-sighted policy. And he left the state in a financial mess that we’re going to be digging out of for a long, long time.
Which is why I’m glad he won’t be our president. Pawlenty excelled at appearing reasonable, rational, and sensible. He was none of the above. He was reckless, careless, and so intent on winning the presidency some day that he refused to raise taxes even when it became clear he had to. He was willing to drive Minnesota onto the rocks in order to position himself to win the Republican nomination for president. He deserves to be what he is today: a loser.