Thursday, September 27, 2012

Pawlenty Quits On Romney and What It Means for The GOP in 2016

Ever since Tim Pawlenty threw in the towel on his presidential bid, he's been one of Mitt's most outspoken supporters. Whereas other Republican contenders like Perry and Santorum have never really said anything gushingly nice about Romney, offering just tepid endorsements, Pawlenty always went that extra mile and praised as if he really meant it.

So to see T-Paw quit on Mitt to head up a large financial services lobby group says quite a bit about the rapid descent of Mitt's chances in November. One has to think this job opening would've still been available for Pawlenty in about five weeks, making his abrupt resignation all that more befuddling. But Tim likely knew what Nate Silver recently wrote about, that a candidate in Romney's position at this point in the race rarely pulls out a victory come Election Day.

But what I find even more interesting is the fact that Pawlenty took this job at all. Of course, I'm sure it's a cushy gig that pays very well. However, at the start of the primary season, Pawlenty quickly became a favorite pick to be the Republican nominee. He was the presumed reasonable one who would be able to appeal to the widest audience. Eventually he washed out and yet many a pundit doubled-down and put him atop the list for 2016.

Question: when was the last time you saw a presidential front-runner coming from the ranks of a lobbyist organization, much less one that fronts for Wall Street firms? I would have to say never. So what gives?

It's obvious Pawlenty believes Romney has no shot to win. But I also have to think Pawlenty has concluded that his party will remain crazy for the next several years -- or at least for the next four. If he wanted to run again in 2016, it's unlikely he would've accepted such a perception-challenged position, one that would significantly compromise his candidacy. Yet as mentioned, Pawlenty is sensible and not psycho and that's a huge negative in a party that celebrates the likes of Bachmann, Cain and Santorum. We're starting to hear more calls for the Republican Party to change its ways, to quit catering to the lunatic fringe and become more moderate. And yet Pawlenty for one thinks such a transformation is a pipe dream, so he's taking the big $$$$.

What a shame. With Romney fast sinking in the polls, I'm hearing and reading how it's not so much his fault but rather his party is to blame. The modern-day GOP makes it near impossible for any candidate to appeal to the wider electorate, forcing someone like Romney or John McCain to disavow their record and recite the party talking points -- points that drift ever-more to the right with each passing election season. I've been writing about this Republican problem for years, how it forces electable (read: not crazy) candidates to twist and turn and tie themselves up in knots like a pretzel, siding with the positions that are too extreme and often make no sense or even conflict with one another.

It's been clear for some time that as long the GOP continues on this course to seemingly outdo itself in a race to ultimate insanity, it will have less and less of chance to win the White House again (at least fairly, without voter suppression or help from the SCOTUS). While this may be a good thing for Democrats, it's a tragedy for the country, which in the end is all that matters.

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