Pawlenty for Senate
The withdrawal of Tim Pawlenty from the race for the Republican nomination creates an excellent opportunity for the Republican Party: nominate Tim Pawlenty to run in the 2012 Senate race against Amy Klobuchar. Few conservatives had problems with Pawlenty as a politician. The obstacle to Pawlenty winning the presidential nod was that he appeared a weak candidate against Obama and that his conservatism was not as clear as candidates like Michelle Bachmann.
This does not mean Pawlenty could not help those changes in America which he has rhetorically supported. As a two term governor who has been out of office less than one year and whose political party in the 2010 election captured both houses of the Minnesota Legislature, Pawlenty would have a good chance of defeating one-term incumbent Amy Klobuchar.
It is almost as important for Republicans to gain a filibuster proof Senate in 2012 as it is to capture the White House. The goal of sixty Senate seats, the magic number for cloture, is not out of reach. Republicans are favored to gain seats in North Dakota and Nebraska. Retirements have also made Montana, New Mexico, Virginia and Wisconsin very good bets, especially in a Republican year. Missouri and West Virginia are basically conservative states with first term Democrats defending their seats. Pennsylvania and Ohio are run by Republicans now, and both states have been slobber-knocked by the Obama recession.
"Who runs?" is a big deal in the battle for a filibuster proof Senate after that.
Florida, depending upon who runs against Nelson, could be competitive in an historically conservative state. A Connecticut Senate seat would normally be out of reach for Republicans, the retirement of Liebermann, who was dumped by his own party six years ago, could create opportunities for Republicans. Debbie Stabenow looked a sure bet to win re-election in Michigan until a few weeks ago when popular ex-Congressman Pete Hoekstra announced that he would oppose her. Polling data today shows him walking away with the Republican nomination and Stabenow an unpopular incumbent.
If Tim Pawlenty ran and won against Klobuchar, his victory could easily provide the fourteenth Republican Senate gain, and if Pawlenty took the plunge, then other former Republican governors might too. Three of those - Lingle in Hawaii, Carcieri in Rhode Island, and Douglas in Vermont - could win in states otherwise unwinnable for Republicans.
Maria Cantwell in Washington will be running in a state trending Republican in 2010 saddled with a very unpopular outgoing Democrat governor leaving office. Menendez in New Jersey faces the political dynamic of Governor Christie and may be in trouble. Michael Steele, in a rematch against Cardin in Maryland, could win. Feinstein in California, whose party now owns lock, stock and barrel the dismal economy of the state, could lose in a Republican year. Even Senate seats in Delaware and New York could be in jeopardy if Republican wins a 1980 Reagan-like landslide.
There is another component to a Pawlenty Senate run which anticipates less rosy picture for Republicans. Minnesota, Iowa, Michigan and Wisconsin are states that Republicans could carry in the presidential race. The recent smack-down of Democrats in Wisconsin recall elections shows just how limp support for the left is in these states. Obama simply must carry these four states to win the presidential election. A Pawlenty Senate run along with Republican victories in Wisconsin and the generally strong showing of Republicans in that four state area in 2010 could split the region in the presidential election or, perhaps, give a strong Republican candidate all four states.
Republicans ought to draft Pawlenty for this Senate battle. The former Minnesota governor is, no doubt, wounded by his loss in Iowa (he would hardly be human otherwise.) If conservatives nationally gave Pawlenty encouragement and contributions for a Senate run, it would not only help make the task of running easier but also show Pawlenty that he was welcome in the ranks of Republican reformers.
Pawlenty is a relatively young politician. As a senator he could build a voting record at the federal level which could persuade conservatives to support a presidential run in four or eight years. The opportunity for Pawlenty and for the Republican Party is great. We need politicians like Pawlenty as competitive campaigners in states which tilt against us if we are to win the sort of victories America needs. Conservatives may not have felt that Pawlenty was our best shot at beating Obama or would have been the best leader in a conservative revolution, but anyone who doubts that he would be much better than Amy Klobuchar, who voted with conservatives only four percent of the time in 2010, is a conservative who likes losing.