Pawlenty Boosts McCain
By: Jeff Patch
February 1, 2007 04:49 PM EST
Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty said Thursday that his fellow partisans must regroup after a bruising 2006 election cycle and decide between ideological purity and electability in the 2008 contest -- a not-so-veiled plea for conservatives to take a fresh look at Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.
"The marketplace just told Republicans something," said Pawlenty, who will take the reigns of the Republican Governors Association this summer. "It told them that we are choosing for now to select the products and services of your opponent."
In a session with reporters at the Washington offices of lobbying firm Clark & Weinstock, Pawlenty outlined his position and legislative outlook on several topics, including the economy, energy, health care and immigration. But the buzz of the conversation, hosted by former Minnesota Republican congressman Vin Weber, centered on Pawlenty’s role as Minnesota co-chair of the exploratory committee of McCain,. Weber supports former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, who Pawlenty will replace at the RGA.
Pawlenty took pains to avoid negative comments about fellow Republicans and focus the conversations on what he views as McCain's pluses.
"I believe he's in a league of his own," he said, also dismissing concerns that McCain will lose credibility by supporting President Bush’s troop boost in Iraq.
Pawlenty acknowledged that there are concerns among conservatives about whether McCain’s record is “sufficiently conservative." Pawlenty’s comeback: "If you hold any of these candidates to a purity litmus test, with the possible exception of (Kansas Sen.) Sam Brownback, we'll have nobody left," Pawlenty said.
"Senator Brownback also fails, too" chimed in Kate O'Beirne, the Washington editor of the National Review, a conservative weekly.
Minnesota's chief executive also had a simple, if glib, answer for what President Bush should do now that the Democrats gained power in Congress, similar to Democratic gains in Minnesota.
The second-term governor, who pledged to focus on Minnesota and eschew higher office during the 2008 cycle, also took a shot at Democratic Senate hopeful Al Franken, the liberal comedian.
"I don't think he'd be right for Minnesota," Pawlenty said, nonetheless conceding Minnesota's penchant for oddball elections. "You'd be hard-pressed to point to what he's done that would lead you to the conclusion that he should be helping -- be in the United States Senate at this time."