By T.W. Budig
ECM Capitol reporter
The Associated Press is reporting that former Republican governor Tim Pawlenty will announce his run for president in Iowa on Monday.
Pawlenty, 50, former state representative from Eagan and two-term governor, has long been seen as a likely presidential contender.
At a recent stop in Iowa, Pawlenty told one group of Iowans that the unsettled field of Republican presidential candidates works to his advantage as it gives him more time to introduce himself to the voters. Many polls show Pawlenty in the lower echelon of the Republican presidential field in terms of name recognition.
Pawlenty may be gone from the Minnesota State Capitol, but still casts a long shadow in the current state budget debate.Democrats such as Gov. Mark Dayton blame Pawlenty for bequeathing the state the current $5 billion budget deficit.
Republicans spring to Pawlenty’s defense, arguing the former governor — whose controversial unallotment of state spending led to an unfavorable court ruling by the Minnesota Supreme Court — succeeded in containing the ravenous Democrat appetite to spend.
In an interview last November, Pawlenty insisted he stood out among Minnesota governors.
“I’m the first true fiscally-conservative governor in that regard the state has had, in the modern history of the state,” Pawlenty said of refusing to continue a pattern of double-digit state general fund growth.
So ingrained is the idea among Democrats, among the “chattering class,” that increasing taxes is normal, they can’t comprehend someone unwilling to do so, Pawlenty explained.
“‘He must have an ill motive or a mental defect, because he just won’t raise taxes or act like a Democrat,’” Pawlenty depicted the perceived mentality.
“I would say to you respectfully, it’s a bunch of crap,” said Pawlenty.
“I’ve always had these (conservative) positions,” he said.
While Pawlenty depicts Democrats and the chattering class as unable to grasp his conservatism, some moderate Republicans, too, find it difficult.
“The only thing I can see is his No New Tax,” recently said former Republican state senator Bill Belanger of Bloomington of Pawlenty’s legacy.
Former Republican state representative Phil Krinkie, president of the Minnesota Taxpayers League and recently appointed by Pawlenty to Minnesota State Colleges and Universities Board of Trustees, called Pawlenty “a steady hand at the wheel.”
“Governor Pawlenty was a great caretaker for the State of Minnesota,” said Krinkie recently.
Former Pawlenty chief of staff and Minnesota Business Partnership Executive Director Charlie Weaver recently praised his former boss’s fiscal conservatism.
“In a nutshell I’d say he reinstated fiscal sanity” said Weaver. “That’s a big deal,” he said of lowering state spending. Weaver views Pawlenty’s legacy as real enduring.
Pawlenty and wife Mary Pawlenty, a former district court judge, have two daughters, Anna and Mara.
Pawlenty has won smiles but also criticism for referring to his highly successful wife as his “red-hot smokin’ wife,” but the criticism does not extend to Mary Pawlenty herself.
“Obviously I can only speak for myself, but I don’t know a woman alive who wouldn’t love to have her husband refer to her as his ‘red-hot smokin’ wife… I find that to be so unbelievably endearing and I adore him for saying that,” said Mary Pawlenty while still Minnesota First Lady.
The Pawlenty met at the University of Minnesota Law School. Tim Pawlenty was calm, funny, had good answers in [a law school] class, and there was something about his voice, Mary Pawlenty explained. She immediately sensed he would excel.
The attraction was mutual.
“What I sensed right away was that I was very interested in her,” said the governor. “I thought she was beautiful, intelligent, strong, interesting, caring, and somebody I was attracted to,” Tim Pawlenty said while still governor. The Pawlentys were married in 1987.
Pawlenty served as Republican House Majority Leader before becoming governor. He was known for a sense of humor — something that followed into the Governor’s Office but faded over time.
“I think I’m still that same person,” Pawlenty said last November of enjoying a laugh. “(But) everybody is looking for that one phrase that can get on a blog to drive readership.
“It gets lifted,” he said of a joke. “It comes across as mean spirited. I miss those earlier days, because I’d rather continue like that.”
Pawlenty is not alone among Minnesota Republicans in showing an ambition to take on President Barrack Obama in 2012. Sixth District Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, R-Stillwater, has indicated her interest but has not formally announced. That could change soon.
Former Republican U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich recently did announced his intention to run for president. Former Republican Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, generally seen as the frontrunner among the Republican presidential field, has not formally announced.
Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee recently took himself out of the running. He has been criticized by national pundits as suffering from “charisma deficit,” though other see him as well positioned to compete for the Republican party nomination.
Minnesota DFL State Party Chairman Ken Martin commented today on a recent national media story in which Pawlenty is reported as indicating he didn’t know exactly why he was running for president.
“We knew Tim Pawlenty didn’t bring much to the table in terms of leadership, accomplishments or vision – and with this admission he’s proven that he knows it too,” said Martin.