sexta-feira, 2 de outubro de 2009
Tim Pawlenty, governador do Minnesota, já prepara a candidatura presidencial em 2012
«Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty has been quietly assembling the blueprint of a presidential campaign and will announce Thursday the support of a group of high-level political strategists and donors, complemented by a handful of top new media consultants, POLITICO has learned.
Pawlenty, under the radar of D.C.’s political community, has locked up some of the key operatives who engineered then-President George W. Bush’s reelection campaign — a significant feat for a little-known Midwestern politician.
The moves underscore, and will lend credence to, the emerging belief among many establishment Republicans that Pawlenty is becoming the sole viable alternative to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, a potential Republican primary rival. The Minnesota governor has even gone so far as to contact some of Romney’s former supporters.
Pawlenty, who previously has had little political infrastructure, is now being advised by a trio of GOP consultants with presidential experience: Terry Nelson, Sara Taylor and Phil Musser.
And in formally opening his political action committee, Freedom First, Thursday, Pawlenty will also announce two co-chairmen, William Strong, a Morgan Stanley vice chairman, and former Rep. Vin Weber (R-Minn.), both of whom are heavyweight GOP figures, along with a list of prominent Minnesota donors.
In addition to a high-dollar gala launch for the PAC in Minneapolis in November, Pawlenty is planning a Washington fundraiser for late October designed to acquaint the governor with the Beltway’s most influential Republicans. Helping to coordinate the governor’s GOP outreach in the nation’s capital is Sam Geduldig, a well-connected lobbyist and former senior aide to Reps. John Boehner and Roy Blunt.
Serving as the PAC’s counsel is Michael Toner, a veteran campaign lawyer in Washington. Alex Conant, a native Minnesotan and former Republican National Committee spokesman, will serve as communications director.
The governor has also inked political technology consultants Patrick Ruffini, Mindy Finn, Patrick Hynes and Liz Mair to develop what Pawlenty advisers hope will be the most sophisticated new-media presence of any Republican in the nation. Pawlenty launches a new website, www.timpawlenty.com, Thursday.
The second-term Minnesota governor, who is not seeking reelection next year, is focused on twin political goals, his advisers say: helping elect two Republican governors this fall from his perch as Republican Governors Association vice chairman and using his PAC to aid like-minded candidates running in next year’s midterm elections.
But Pawlenty is doing far more than that to establish his presence in the minds of Republican voters.
He is also traveling the country at a fevered clip, appearing at scores of GOP and conservative events to speak to the party faithful, and becoming a frequent national TV presence, especially on cable television, where he’s able to offer sharp critiques of President Barack Obama’s latest moves.
And behind the scenes, he’s engaged in a far more subtle campaign against another possible presidential rival.
Pawlenty has been phoning aides and advisers to Romney’s 2008 campaign, ostensibly to introduce himself and solicit their advice.
One midlevel Romney aide who got a call suggested the Minnesotan was targeting younger operatives who may be open to another candidate in 2012 should the former Massachusetts governor stock the senior levels of his next potential run with the same cast as last time.
Pawlenty also recently reached out to another well-known Romney supporter from a key early-primary state, asking questions about the state’s political dynamics.
“Not a lot of people outside of Minnesota know Gov. Pawlenty very well, and as he tries to help Republicans around the country, it makes sense for him to reach out to a lot of people,” said Conant, when asked about the forward-leaning tactics. “As he puts together a team to run the PAC with a focus on 2010, he wants the best people available.”
But such conversations have another effect, as Pawlenty and his team are well aware —they serve notice to the small community of political insiders that the governor is serious about a White House run.
The same can be said about the selection of Weber as co-chairman of his PAC. The former Minnesota congressman-turned-GOP lobbyist and strategist was an early backer of Romney’s primary run, serving as campaign policy chairman and a close adviser.
“I’m a free agent,” Weber said when asked about his 2012 loyalties, noting he had told senior Romney officials about his decision to help lead Pawlenty’s PAC. He was emphatic that his efforts for Pawlenty are about 2010 — “doing something positive for the Republican Party” — and not the next presidential race.
Pawlenty is holding one-on-one meetings with Republicans nearly everywhere he goes and is going to some lengths to make sure his message is correctly calibrated. Before the recent Family Research Council’s Value Voters Summit, for example, he held a conference call with a team of advisers, including pollster Tony Fabrizio and longtime conservative strategist Greg Mueller, to help shape his speech and general approach at an event where he got rave reviews and finished a surprising third in the straw poll.
Further, Pawlenty has used public appearances and op-eds to criticize the health care plan Romney put in place in Massachusetts.
Taken together, Pawlenty’s efforts reflect a Republican trying to carve out a niche for himself in the very early 2012 jockeying. Before anyone else enters the arena, he’s seeking to win over Republicans who are reluctant, or downright unwilling, to embrace Romney and who think that other potential candidates — notably former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and former Alaska Gov. and vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin — are nonstarters in a general election.
“Who else is a credible alternative that’s going to have a national campaign infrastructure?” asked one Republican operative, listing only Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) as another potential entrant, before noting that the senator has done little to suggest he’s interested in challenging Obama.
“There are basically two guys who are electable conservatives,” said another plugged-in Republican, assessing a field that right now seems notably thin.
Yet Pawlenty lacks a few important strengths that some of his possible opponents enjoy. He doesn’t have the ability to finance his own campaign as Romney does, nor does he maintain anything close to the former presidential hopeful’s donor and grass-roots base. He lacks Huckabee’s natural hold on social conservatives. And he’s never going to enjoy a fervent following like the one Palin can point to.
It’s also not entirely clear what Pawlenty’s signature issues will be, since there is no overarching accomplishment in St. Paul that he could clearly run on.
Pawlenty’s early maneuvering, however, could address one of the political class’s early raps against him: that, while he may be a young and appealing conservative from a blue state, he lacks the organization or capacity to raise the kind of money needed to win the presidential nomination.
Nelson initially ran Sen. John McCain’s presidential campaign in 2007 and was the national political director on the Bush-Cheney reelection campaign in 2004. Taylor was also a senior official on the Bush campaign and did a stint as White House political director at the start of his second term. Musser ran the Republican Governors Association in 2006 and advised Romney at the outset of his 2008 White House run. Fabrizio and Mueller have also worked on GOP presidential campaigns.
Strong was a Ranger, or top Bush fundraising bundler, in 2004 and for McCain. He’s joined by a group of Minnesotans, including former Target CEO Bob Ulrich, GOP strategist Jeff Larson and TCF Financial Corp. CEO Bill Cooper.
Pawlenty’s team also includes a number of operatives who worked for different candidates in the last GOP primary. On the Web team alone are individuals from the campaigns of McCain, Romney and Rudy Giuliani.
A group of Pawlenty loyalists in Minnesota, Trisha Hamm, Annie Kelly and Don Stiles, will help run the business side of the St. Paul-based PAC.»