As the last successful statewide Republican candidate former Governor Tim Pawlenty (R-MN) is like a Viking’s quarterback acquisition of the 1980-90’s. He is akin to Brett Farve, Randall Cunningham, Jeff George, or Warren Moon. Each in their own right had attributes in their heyday and a recycled career here in Minnesota, creating a sense each might bring home the prize. To continue this tortured analogy Pawlenty is the equivalent of a Hail Mary pass but provides comfort for the donor class.
The reason for the opportunity is the inherent weakness of the Republican field. The supposed front-runner Hennepin County Commission Jeff Johnson (R) is a two-time statewide loser. He lost to Governor Mark Dayton (DFL-MN) by 5.56% when Dayton was mostly bedridden from hip surgery and needed his Lt Governor Candidate Tina Smith (DFL-MN) to do the bulk of campaigning, while he phoned it in. In 2006, he was trounced by 12.52% for Attorney General by Lori Swanson (DFL-MN). His support for Donald J Trump (R) comes as an eventuality, first he was with US Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), then he supported US Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) and finally when no one else was left standing embraced Trump.
Johnson considers himself, the “Watchdog” of Hennepin County government, but of comes off as an ankle biter picking at scraps. His criticisms are weak and rarely have any impact. The reason he gets reelected to the Hennepin County Board is that he represents some of the most conservative portions in the northwest of the county.
To his credit, Johnson did win the Republican Precinct Caucus Preference Poll, but that was after Rep Matt Dean (R-43B, Delano) withdrew and endorsed him. The rest of the field is weaker and unknown statewide. Former Republican Party Keith Downey (R-Edina) left the party still in debt and served a single term in the Minnesota House. Woodbury Mayor Mary Giuliani Stephens (R) is angling to be Pawlenty’s running mate and Phillip Parrish creates a blank stare.
Now, Governor Mark Dayton (DFL-MN) has weighed in a considers the wreckage left by the Pawlenty Administration worth challenging. Star Tribune: Gov. Mark Dayton rips into his predecessor, and would-be successor, Tim Pawlenty
The Republican Party and field are both weak. The impact of Trump will be the dominant factor and now even Pawlenty admits after the fact he voted for him after characterizing him as “unfit” for the office and now supports his policies. Oh, how the times have changed, in less than two years.
Pawlenty is lucky coming out of political retirement doesn’t require any preconditions. He can enter the field, court the state convention delegates and possibly block an endorsement. It’s not likely he can win the endorsement because he entered the field when he did, but if the true weakness of the field is full acknowledged then things can happen in the Bizarro world of Trumpism. In fact, if Trump endorsed Pawlenty all bets are off and he wins the Republican Primary.