Pawlenty Wins at Musical Chairs
With the announcement that he is taking over as Vice Chair of the Republican Governors Association, Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty is climbing yet another rung up the political ladder to national prominence as a potential presidential candidate for 2012 and beyond. You may recall that the Vice Chair spot opened up as the result of current Vice Chair Haley Barbour replacing a resigning South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford at the top of the RGA.
Pawlenty still has to contend with the rap that as a candidate he is a somewhat bland, soft-spoken Midwesterner, but you can watch him here on Fox News trying to ratchet up the partisan rhetoric by calling President Obama’s health care plan a joke and a scam. Perhaps this kind of sharp criticism will endear him a bit more to the party’s conservative base, but notice that even while going negative, Pawlenty is still polite enough to draw a clear distinction between policy attacks and personal ones.
Pawlenty’s greatest strength, however, is that he seems to have a fairly accurate read on what ails the Republican Party. While many political elites have responded to the party’s current troubles by doubling down on conservative nostalgia, Pawlenty has talked quite effectively about the need to update the party’s message through a better use of technology, greater outreach to younger voters, and a de-emphasis of divisive culture war rhetoric in favor of creative thinking on domestic policy.
Whether Pawlenty can package all of this in a way that appeals to both moderates and conservatives remains to be seen, but he has certainly made a lot of progress in that direction over the past year. He will take yet another step up the party ladder on Thursday, when he delivers a major address to members of the Republican National Committee in San Diego. And, the RGA spot will provide him with an ongoing platform for further national exposure as he prepares to leave the governorship in 2010.

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