Tim Pawlenty has an identity problem. Although he just completed two terms as governor of Minnesota, and has officially announced his intention to enter the Presidential primaries in 2012, he is not well known outside his home state. Other potential Republican candidates, including Rudy Giuliani, Mike Huckabee, Mitt Romney, New Gingrich and Sarah Palin, are constantly in the news. Super-rich and super-self-promoting Donald Trump is currently making the Republican field even more crowded by hinting he will run for the Presidency next year.
A recent Gallop poll didn’t even list Pawlenty’s name on the list of ten potential Republican candidates for next year’s race. Other sources report that other polls indicate that 40 percent of all voters admit they don’t know who he is. These factors indicate Pawlenty has a lot of work to do, and may have much better chance to get his party’s nomination for President in 2016. This will be even more important to him if Barak Obama wins a second term, ending the hopes of some of the more prominent current Republicans.
Timothy James Pawlenty was born in 1960 in South St. Paul. He’s one of five children of Eugene, a milk truck driver and Virginia. Tim was brought up and educated Catholic, but changed to Evangelical Christian 20 years ago, when he married Mary Anderson, a former Minnesota district judge. They’re parents of two teenage daughters, Anna and Mara.
In 1983, Pawlenty was graduated from the University of Minnesota with a B.A. in political science, and three years later earned his law degree at the university. He was elected to the Minnesota State House of Representatives in 1992, and was Republican majority leader from 1999 until he ran successfully for governor in 2002. He was reelected for another four-year term in 2006.
Pawlenty first came into national prominence in 2008 at the Republican National Convention. Many Republican insiders considered him the front runner to be chosen as John McCain’s Vice President running mate. It seemed like a good choice. He was a young mid-40s, an effective and successful politician, and not tied to the extreme right wing of the Republican Party.
When McCain impulsively chose Sarah Palin in an attempt to lure women voters, Pawlenty was devastated. However, he proved his party loyalty by campaigning vigorously for the Republican ticket until election day. That kind of commitment cemented Pawlenty’s reputation in the party and with conservative voters. It can help when he hits the primaries trail in 2012 and/or 2016.
What are Pawlenty’s chances of winning the Republican nomination for President, assuming it will most likely happen in 2016? He proved his could convince voters, and was twice elected governor in Minnesota, usually a very liberal stronghold. As governor, he proved he could work with a state legislature that was controlled by Democrats.
The son of a milkman, Pawlenty has no limitless Bush nor Kennedy family money to put into his Presidential campaign. He has to prove to big and little donors that he has a chance to win the tough primaries, the nomination and the Presidency. His political action committee did well in getting funding for his runs for governor of a relatively small state, but he’ll need much more clout to fund a national campaign.
While Pawlenty is trim, intelligent-looking and a good public speaker, some say he lacks the Presidential quality of Ronald Reagan and Franklin D. Roosevelt. Of course, President Harry Truman had no movie-star looks, but with brilliant campaigning and sheer guts, he beat the handsome Tom Dewey.
Tim Pawlenty certainly does face a tough road ahead. With his lack of public recognition compared to other potential 2012 Republican Presidential candidates, he hasn’t much of a chance to win the nomination next year. However, by getting himself into that race early this year, he can build his public image by being constantly visible to the media, voters and decision-makers in the Republican Party.
Tim Pawlenty will have four critical years to make his move. If he does it right, in January 2017, there just could be the swearing in of President Pawlenty on the steps of the Capitol in Washington DC.
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Tim Pawlenty Quick Bio
Early Life and Education
Tim “T-Paw” Pawlenty, former two-term governor of Minnesota, was born November 27, 1960. He grew up near stockyards and meat-processing plants in South St. Paul, Minnesota with four siblings, a truck-driver father, and a mother who passed away when he was 16.
He was the first in his family to graduate from college, working his way through the University of Minnesota, where he earned a B.A.in political science in 1983 and a law degree in 1986.
After law school, he became a prosecutor. He began his political career in 1989 when he was elected to the local city council. In 1992, he was elected to the Minnesota House of Representatives, where he became the majority leader. In 2002, he was elected governor, and he was reelected in 2006. As governor, he eliminated a budget deficit without raising taxes. He started to make a name for himself and was on the short list to become John McCain’s running mate in 2008.
On March 21, 2011, he announced on his Facebook page that he was forming an exploratory committee for the 2012 presidential race. He was the first major Republican candidate to enter the race.
Policies and Positions
Pawlenty is a conservative advocating smaller government. In a video posted on Facebook, Pawlenty said, “We know what we need to do: grow jobs, limit government spending, and tackle entitlements. We need to encourage … the brave men and women … that have asked for nothing more than the freedom to work hard and get ahead without government getting in the way.”
As state representative and governor, he cut taxes. He implemented education and health-care reforms that emphasized competition. He championed programs to help support the troops and their families.
He is opposed to abortion and stem-cell research.
He has distanced himself from the position some other candidates have taken on the Obama“birther” controversy, going so far as to joke about it, saying “Now, I’m not one to question the authenticity of Barack Obama’s birth certificate … [b]ut when you look at his policies, I do question what planet he’s from.”
He has said that as president, he would reform medicaid and social security – including raising the social security retirement age. He would focus on cutting spending, as he has done in his past political career.
Pawlenty and his wife Mary, a former district judge, have been married more than 20 years and have two teenage daughters. Pawlenty enjoys hockey, both as a fan and as a frequent player in pick-up games.
2016 Presidential Election Potential
A strong point for Pawlenty is that he may appeal to a broad section of the population. He wants the Republican party to shed its rich-guy image, saying, in a memorable phrase, “We need to be the party of Sam’s Club, not just the country club.” He emphasizes his working-class roots and his empathy for people who have lost their jobs.
Though he has spoken at Tea Party rallies, he is likely to be more attractive to crucial moderate and swing voters than some of his potential primary opponents. As a two-term Republican governor in a progressive state, he has shown he can attract voters outside of the Republican base.
His personality may be both an asset and a liability. He comes across as sincere, but his critics say that he is too soft-spoken and lacks charisma.