So much for “Obamneycare.”
Those who watched Fox & Friends on the Fox News Channel while sipping their morning coffee–myself included–had the pleasure of seeing the first real consolidation of candidacy in the GOP presidential primary, as former Minnesota governor and former presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty threw his weight behind another former chief executive, former Massachusetts Gov. and two-time presidential candidate Mitt Romney. The New York Times published the following shortly thereafter:
Tim Pawlenty endorsed Mitt Romney for president on Monday, making the announcement on Fox News hours before the Republican presidential candidates gather in Florida for another debate.
Mr. Pawlenty, the former governor of Minnesota who ended his quest for the Republican nomination last month, chose Mr. Romney over Gov. Rick Perry of Texas, whom he was close to from their years serving on the Republican Governors Association.
Many of Mr. Pawlenty’s contributors and supporters had been waiting for a signal from him in the escalating contest between Mr. Romney and Mr. Perry. And Mr. Pawlenty had been looking for help in retiring a campaign debt of at least $500,000.
In a statement announcing Mr. Pawlenty as a national co-chairman of his campaign, Mr. Romney said: “Tim will be a trusted adviser as I move forward with my campaign. Tim has always been an advocate for lower taxes, reduced spending and an environment where jobs can be created. It is an honor to have him serve as co-chair to my campaign for the presidency.”
I have no doubt that Gov. Pawlenty was motivated not only by the opportunity to retire $500,000 in campaign debt, but also by the chance that he could very well be a consideration for the completion of the Romney ticket should the man heralded as the GOP’s heir apparent actually capture the nomination.
Pawlenty also took the opportunity to fall in line with Romney in the debate over Social Security, rekindled by a fantastic exchange between Romney and Texas Gov. Rick Perry in last week’s presidential debate at the Reagan Library. Also from the Times:
The endorsement, which was brokered in recent days, was released on Monday to help Mr. Romney contract his message on Social Security with Mr. Perry’s. The issue has become a defining difference between the two candidates and was expected to be discussed extensively at the debate Monday night in Tampa, Fla.
Mr. Perry has criticized the original intent of Social Security, describing it as a “Ponzi scheme” and “a monstrous lie.”
Mr. Pawlenty criticized those remarks on Monday.
Both the decision to back Mitt Romney–presumably out of hope that he could be on the ticket as Romney’s VP, much like he hoped to have run in 2008 at second fiddle to John McCain–and the decision to come out against Rick Perry’s statements regarding Social Security show that Pawlenty joins Romney in being divorced from the reality that is this upcoming election in this particular political climate. This election, as I’ve said time and time again, is not so much about winning independents as it is about fomenting support in a base that is, now more than ever, concerned about the sustainability of our nation’s entitlement programs and responsive to lawmakers and political figures who are best able to articulate those concerns.
In any other election year, Perry’s comments about Social Security would be a non-starter. And, frankly, I still expect the left to run those comments on a perpetual loop in order to frighten seniors if Perry does turn out to be the nominee. This year, however, Perry’s blunt rhetoric rings true for many Americans and will go a long way for exciting and fomenting support among the base.
So, too, would the selection of a vice presidential candidate who can articulate conservative principles with fire and passion. Marco Rubio and Herman Cain come to mind, and not just because they would bring ethnic diversity to either a Romney or Perry ticket, but because they would provide that fire and even act to preserve the conservative bona fides of a ticket lead by either a state chief executive who mandated vaccinations against HPV or a former state chief executive who mandated health care coverage as a whole.
I happen to like Tim Pawlenty, but not as Mitt Romney’s vice presidential pick. Among Romney’s problems are a lack of trust from conservatives and Tea Party folks, as well as an inherent inability to connect on a personal level with regular Americans. Pawlenty may help in both regards, but it should be noted that he was the first announced high-profile candidate who announced, that he ensured frequent media appearances over the past three years so as to establish and maintain name recognition, and that he struggled to ever gain traction despite a great campaign staff. In other words, he just wasn’t likeable. And Mitt — well, Mitt needs likeability.
Romney needs someone like Herman Cain, who can allow Mitt to court independents by hedging on Perry’s rhetoric on issues like Social Security while gaining confidence in the base through Cain’s own brand of articulation of conservative principles. Without that, the Romney campaign will suffer from a dearth of personality and relatability, and will appear weak on issues at the forefront of the minds of the resurgent right.