We happen to agree. We even created a blog, this blog, to that effect to track the successes of our Great Governor, and his vision for the future of not just the GOP, but the State of Minnesota, and ultimately the future of the country.
And the more we read, the more we watch and monitor, the more clear it becomes just how instrumental Governor Pawlenty will be in in this future, and just how clearly he fits as the brand of the 21st Century Republican Party.
It is human nature to ask what this means for the "here and now" during the heat of a presidential race, and what it means for the "here and now" is clear:
Governor Pawlenty is the obvious and clear best choice to be the next Vice- President of the United States should Senator John McCain win this November.
Up From His Bootstraps
In a party long seen as controlled by affluent elites, Pawlenty's decidedly blue collar background puts an entirely different face on what it means to be a Republican.
Pawlenty grew up in the working class environs of South St. Paul. He was a teenager when he lost his mother. His father was a truck driver. He was the first member of his family to graduate from college. He still plays ice hockey whenever he can. He caught a 17" walleye on opening day of fishing season this spring. His most oft-quoted line by the national press is his vow to make the GOP the party of "Sam's Club not just the country club."
That "regular guy" profile appeals to a party that finds itself increasingly ceding the middle class vote to Democrats -- an untenable position if Republicans hope to retain the White House this year or take back control of the House and Senate anytime soon."To me, he epitomizes where the party needs to go in terms of its communication," said former White House political director Sara Taylor. "He is focused on how these Washington policies effect real people."
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And "The Fix" goes on to discuss his Boy Scout reputation, and the fact that he is decidedly "NOT WASHINGTON" at a time when virtually everyone, across the political spectrum is crying out for "not Washington."
Bridging the Evangelical Gap
It's no secret that evangelical Christian voters never really came around to McCain during the primary season. Any number of candidates made a pitch for their support, but it eventually coalesced behind former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee -- an evangelical in his own right. Even after it was abundantly clear that McCain would be the GOP nominee, evangelical voters stuck by Huckabee -- pushing him into the teens and even 20s in some states where he wasn't even running an active political operation.
The lack of intensity among one of the pillars of the Republican base should be concerning to all GOPers heading into the fall, especially given the huge amount of excitement Obama is generating among the Democratic base.
Pawlenty could well provide a solution to the gap between McCain and evangelical voters without alienating moderates and independents. (Huckabee would almost surely help McCain bridge the evangelical gap too but lacks the appeal to the ideological middle.) Vin Weber, a former Republican member of Congress from Minnesota and now a major player in Washington GOP politics, explains that while Pawlenty has close ties to the evangelical community in his state and nationally but is "not a guy who wears [religion] on his sleeve."
The connection to evangelicals is largely through Pawlenty's wife, Mary. She is a graduate of Bethel University in Minnesota, which describes itself as teaching a "distinctly evangelical Christian philosophy of education." Mary Pawlenty is also a longtime member of the Wooddale Church and is a close friend of the church's pastorLeith Anderson. (Make sure to check out this profile of Mary Pawlenty from Bethel's alumni magazine that was written in 2000.)
Anderson is a powerful force in the evangelical community, having served as the past and current president of the National Association of Evangelicals.
"If [Pawlenty] were chosen it would reverberate with the 30 million members of those churches almost instantaneously and very publicly," said Weber. (click here to read the article in its entirety)
But Governor Pawlenty's future as the face and leader of the Republican Party goes far beyond the here and now. Should Governor Pawlenty not be chosen as Senator McCain's running mate, his position as the new GOP wouldn't change at all.
As we've reported, Governor Pawlenty has set a record in Minnesota for his vetoes of pork barrel spending, and onerous tax hike schemes.
The GOP has, in many respect, lost its brand on the issue of spending leading up to, and during the exact time that Governor Pawlenty was balancing a record budget deficit in Minnesota without raising taxes, and while he was vetoing spending bills and tax increases to keep Minnesota and Minnesota's business climate competitive.
But he has maintained a strong, fiscally conservative, free-market record while still speaking through the prism of his deep blue collar roots. Lower taxes, less regulation, limited government and the like are necessarily, in my opinion, blue-collar, working class values. Yet the media tends to portray those values as the values of the rich (you know, the rich, like those "conservatives" George Soros, and the entirety of Hollywood.)
Governor Pawlenty's vision and the policies he has pushed have a populist appeal, but not the kind of faux-populism that comes from the pseudo-compassionate on the Left. He has lead with a real populism that comes with creating an environment where people from his neighborhood (and mine) really can succeed because of the liberties we enjoy.
And at the same time, Governor Pawlenty is able to lead as perhaps the "Perfect Evangelical" Republican Leader of our day.
In 2003, Pawlenty and Wooddale hosted about 1,600 evangelical leaders from around the country for a two-day convention of the National Association of Evangelicals. Pawlenty praised the work of President Bush and his faith-based initiatives, a program that funnels federal funds to religious charities. "If you're going to change destructive behavior, you've got to change hearts," said Pawlenty, according to the Star Tribune. "Governors can't do that. We hope you can do that in a God-honoring manner that meets the challenges of our day."
In 2004, the evangelical Twin Cities Festival drew around 80,000 people to the Minnesota Capitol grounds for a two-day faith event. Pawlenty offered a warm reception, and even held event-organizing meetings with Luis Palau, according to the Pioneer Press. Of the festival, Pawlenty said, "I'm proud to be associated with such an important faith event. Faith is an important glue that holds our state together." He added that he prayed "that God will bless this weekend and continue to bless this great state." Mary Pawlenty was a featured speaker at the festival.
Pawlenty has quietly but firmly put his evangelical beliefs to work in his political life as governor. In 2003, an inauguration ceremony was held at Wooddale just before his swearing in with Anderson saying a few words: "I believe the God of government has brought Tim Pawlenty to the governor's office in St. Paul for peace and good in the lives of all Minnesotans." He had a similar ceremony at Wooddale in January 2007 after winning reelection in 2006. (Click here to read article in its entirety)
So when Senator McCain tells audiences that Governor Pawlenty has a "very big place" in the future of the GOP and of the country (click here for audio) we know that the "very big place" he has is as one of, if not THE, key leaders, faces, and visionaries of our party for years to come.
Whether one is talking about faith, freedom, liberty, fiscal responsibility, blue-collar roots, loyalty, ethics or even raw electoral vote analysis, Governor Pawlenty, the package, is the best choice for Senator McCain leading into the remainder of this campaign cycle.
But without regard to his spot on this ticket, we are seeing more and more that there is agreement we have become the "Party of Pawlenty."