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2012 already in sight

BY MICHAEL DALE-STEIN | NOVEMBER 06, 2009 7:20 AM

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Featured this weekend at the Iowa State Fairgrounds: gubernatorial on a stick.

On Saturday, GOP governor candidates will convene in Des Moines for the state Republican Party’s “Leadership for Iowa” event. My home-state governor, Republican Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota, will be the keynote speaker.

Popular politico Pawlenty’s stop in Iowa is likely a preliminary trip to garner positive public relations for the 2012 presidential-primary elections. Making his face a recognized staple before the Iowa caucuses is the first step in branding potential for presidential hopefuls like Pawlenty. And his youthful vigor for conservative ideology primes him to be a powerful candidate in years to come.

So what can I, as a native Minnesotan, tell you about this weekend’s headline guest?

In 2008, Pawlenty became cochairman of the John McCain’s presidential campaign and was widely considered to be the front-runner to receive the vice-presidential nomination. His efforts in the prior election should set him up to be seen as a formidable opponent to any Democrat. However, it is far too early for any official announcement or pledge from Pawlenty to run for president. Still, he has decided not to run for re-election as Minnesota’s governor in 2010.

I understand the leeriness in supporting a Republican contender from the über-progressive state of Minnesota — where, politically, up is down and down is up. How can a state be taken seriously when professional wrestler Jesse “The Body” Ventura preceded Pawlenty? And currently, “Saturday Night Live” ex-cast member Al Franken represents Minnesota in the U.S. Senate after a tumultuous 2008 election. Maybe the cold air is getting to our heads.

Now, I would argue that Ventura’s selection as the original “governator” was, at best, a stretch decision by Minnesotans. His Wikipedia page contains sections on both his political positions and wrestling finishing moves. But the Democratic surprise of the year is Franken, whose wit and promotion of political discourse, as seen in a popular viral video, is nonpartisan.

But enough about independent and Democrats; this week is all about the conservatives.

In order to be successful, the Republicans need retooling. Rush Limbaugh can’t be their face. Yet already, small successes in this week’s elections have catalyzed an ostensible comeback for far-right ideologies. I think the worst word to utter on Nov. 3 might have been “moderate.”

So if GOP head honchos are praying for an established conservative — not moderation — then Pawlenty is their man.

If he can get elected twice in the alternate political universe known as Minnesota, raising support at the national level may be feasible. And on Saturday, he’ll make national news when he comes to Iowa. As vice chairman of the Republican Governors Association, Pawlenty will speak to a nationally televised audience alongside former Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad.

Besides Ventura, we Minnesotans usually have a good mind for choosing politicians. And Pawlenty is no different.

He has been surprisingly adept at balancing budgetary concerns and has recently focused renewed efforts on immigration reform — both hotbed issues on the national scale. Most importantly, he did everything he could in getting my Minnesota Twins a new baseball field (which probably doesn’t matter to anybody else).I urge Iowans and Midwesterners alike to tune into C-Span on Saturday and see what Pawlenty has to say. It’s never too early to start thinking about the next election, as it will sneak up on us faster than we think.

And we don’t want to end up with “Stone Cold” Steve Austin as our next president.


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