February 16, 2007

Tim Pawlenty On John McCain, Part I

Below is the transcript of the interview I conducted of Tim Pawlenty, broadcasted yesterday on my CQ Radio show. I've broken it up into three posts. Be sure to listen to the podcast on my site for the live interview and my commentary.

Ed Morrissey: This is Ed Morrissey and I'm welcoming Governor Tim Pawlenty, Minnesota Governor and National co chair of the John McCain for President campaign. Welcome Governor Pawlenty.

Tim Pawlenty: Well thank you Ed and of course at this point I'm just co chair of the exploratory committee because Senator McCain hasn’t yet announced his candidacy. But we are hoping that he will soon.

Ed Morrissey: That's a good point to make. And that brings me to actually my first question. It seems to me that the presidential cycle has really been expended and accelerated in this particular 2008 campaign. Does it seem that way to you and what do you think is driving that?

Tim Pawlenty: Well it's interesting, I think it probably has something to do with all these primaries moving up or probably moving up if you look at the probable or likely schedule of primaries, it appears that by February 5th of 2008, over half the states in the United States will have conducted either a caucus or a primary and by February 6th 2008, both parties will likely already have chosen or in effect chosen their presidential nominees. And so we are within the sight of 12 months, you know, we are 11 months away from that likely kind of reality and so I think it has been accelerated and I think it has been much more aggressive than in past, in part because people keep moving up the primaries and the caucus (audio break) rather the lesser known candidates I think want to use -- getting in early as a way to get some attention and some name ID.

Ed Morrissey: Do you think that the accelerated schedule tends to favor national figures? I mean, in years past we've seen dark horse candidates come out -- the regional candidates, Jimmy Carter in 1976 and Bill Clinton in 1992 for instance. Do you think that the accelerated schedule is going to play against that type of emergence of a surprise candidate?

Tim Pawlenty: I think the prevailing -- short answer yes, I think the prevailing wisdom is when you fund and load primaries and caucuses it tends to favor more well known or more well established or more well financed candidates because they are more likely to be able to spread their message out across many states simultaneously rather than focusing on just one or two early states with modest amount of money.

Ed Morrissey: Well that brings me to talking to Senator McCain. You committed to Senator McCain pretty early, really right at the start of the -- at the primary campaign even in these early stages. What made you decide to endorse him so quickly?

Tim Pawlenty: Well, several reasons. First, just -- it's personal, I've known Senator McCain, I first met him in the late 1980s. And as you know Ed, his life story is compelling. And I love that old quote that says that the best sermons aren't preached, they are lived. And he has lived a life not of a rhetoric, not of promises, not of speeches but of enormous valor, you know, patriotism, courage, strength, conviction and just experience, you know, so you feel -- you know, the story, I won't go to at all but he shot down in -- over Vietnam and when he was ejected from the cockpit his -- one of his shoulders is broken, I believe one or both of his arms were broken, one of his legs I think was broken. He was beaten on the ground, parachutes in to the lake, they drag him out of their -- break his other shoulder, bayonet him, he is a prisoner of war for five and a half years there. His courage and leadership as a prisoner of war, you know, is a stuff of epic -- he is an epic story. And it's also a real life story -- they hang him upside down, they beat him mercilessly, they smacked his teeth out of at the jaw line, they broke numerous bones, they tortured him. And at every turn when he could have taken the easy path or the hard path, he took the hard path out of patriotism and courage and strength. And then that's the same kind of his fearlessness that he has exhibited throughout his career. And I know that sometimes people get little frustrated because he is strong on -- and they should have -- they may not wholly agree with, and I don't always agree with him even on everything either but I have such a profound respect for him as a person and as a leader.

I think he is in a league of his own relative to the field on these personal characteristics or strength and courage and conviction and experience. So that's number one. Number two, he is the only leading candidate in the race who has bona fide international affairs, national security and military experience. And we live in an era where -- in this moment in history, that's so very, very important. We need a steady, strong, seasoned, experienced hand on the throttle in those issues areas and he is the only leading candidate who offers that and does so I think in a very dramatic fashion. Third, he is a conservative, you know, there are some folks who have been questioning that over the years, but if you look critically at his record, it is simply not rational to say that John McCain is not a conservative. He is a commonsense conservative. If you look at the credible groups that rate kind of the fiscal behavior of members of congress, he has been at or near the top of every, you know, ranking of being a fiscal hawk for not just months but years and decades on the spending side, I mean nobody really even dispute that. On the tax side he has been a tax -- certainly holding line on tax, he has been in favor of tax reductions, he is on the wavering on his commitment to pro-life issues. And he supports and defends traditional marriage. So he is a conservative. And then lastly as you look in terms of the future, in terms of the vision for the country, both the country and our party need somebody who can actually win the election, you know, be both -- be true to our principals and our values but also win the election. Otherwise all of this is just a debating society and I think he is a person who can not only get the support of the republican base, but he can also attract a significant amount of independent voters and conservative democrats which we are going to need to win.

If you look at the map, the electoral map, you know, not that many states that are really implied if assume Ohio, it's no longer automatically in the republican column like it used be, that it's definitely in play and may be even tilting a little to the democrats. In order to actually win you need a republican candidate who can pick of some states or win in the upper Midwest and some states in the northeast and few other places and I think Senator McCain can do that. So those are just some of the reasons that kind of give you at least three or four of the leading reasons why I support him.

Ed Morrissey: Sure. Now you mentioned taxes, and actually that brings me to something that I was going to ask little later on but -- this has more to do with how you are going to be able to interact here with the national campaign. I mean you are facing a tough term here, in Minnesota I mean, we lost the bottom support in the legislature and you are going to be faced with an aggressive PSL who is going to -- want to raise taxes to pay for new programs. Are you going to feel extra pressure to hold the line on taxes here in Minnesota and spending as well being representative or Senator McCain on the national stage?

Tim Pawlenty: No, those things aren't connected at all. And you know, I'm going to -- I've my own responsibilities and duties here as Governor of the state of Minnesota and I'll aggressively and fully fulfill those. But I -- you know, it's no secret that I have been and will continue to be opposed to tax increases in Minnesota, we've one of the -- we are a highly taxed state in the nation, although we've made some good progress in dropping that ranking in recent years, our revenues coming into the state without a new tax increase at all are growing at about nine percent for the upcoming two year budget cycle. And you know, that's for two years, I think that's enough. You know, the state needs to live within it's means just like families and businesses have to do and so my position is going to be that Minnesota needs to live within it's means and we don't need tax increases. But that's unrelated to anything I would do on behalf of the McCain campaign. One other thing and if I might just go back to --

Ed Morrissey: Absolutely.

Tim Pawlenty: You know, the other thing about this basis you have to evaluate each candidate not in the context of, you know, against somebody's view of the ideal, but against the field. And you know, if my friends are going to try to disqualify Senator McCain on any one issue -- you are going to have to apply the same standard to all the other candidates and if you do that they all would be disqualified. I mean there is no leading candidate amongst republicans that doesn’t have some strange thing in their record that might concern -- not strange but something in their record that might concern some other republican. So you have to -- all I ask is that people be fair as they assess Senator McCain not against their idea of the perfect but also against the rest of the field.


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