February 16, 2007

Tim Pawlenty On John McCain, Part III

Ed Morrissey: What do you see, going back to the election here, what do you see as John McCain's toughest hurdles in winning the nomination and how do you see yourself as being part of the solution to help him overcome them?

Tim Pawlenty: Well I think Senator McCain is going to do very well in this process because people are going to -- you know, evaluate him again not just in a vacuum compared to their idea of the perfect, but they are also going to -- and I think he is, like I said in my view, a once in a generation leader. Someone who is I think right for the time both for the nation and for our party.

But I think his biggest challenge is going to be to make sure that that his message of commonsense conservatism actually is heard by republican activists and republican voters and republican primaries. Because sometimes the press says well he is -- or I should say his critics, not the press, his critics say well he is not conservative and if you look critically at this whole record, not just Campaign Finance Reform but his whole record on spending over the years, taxes over the years, pro-life over the years, traditional marriage over the years -- it is not rational to say John McCain is not conservative. I mean he may not be perfect on every issue in the mind of every critic. But his record over all is a record of being a bona fide conservative.

Now the upside also, though he is somebody who appeals, has traditionally appealed the independence and -- we need that to win the election. If you are going to win in places like Minnesota and the upper Midwest you can go out and get every republican in Minnesota, every one of them, you know, in a good year you will get 35 percent of the vote. And so you got to make sure you get, you know, you can't have a candidate who normally is exciting to republicans, but also has the ability to get some independent votes. They all will say that they can do that, but he has actually demonstrated an ability to do it.

Ed Morrissey: Well, I know you are a busy man here, so I just really --

Tim Pawlenty: That's all right.

Ed Morrissey: I just have one question -- I've to ask and I'm pretty sure I know what the answer is going to be but, you have been considered a high potential candidate for national office before and you have won two terms in a tough state for republican. There has been rumors of course that -- may be not rumors, but speculation is a better way of saying it, that you would be a good candidate for John McCain's running mate if he wins the nomination. Is that something that you would consider?

Tim Pawlenty: Well as you said I had been asked that many times and I repeat it. My interest in helping him is just as a volunteer and I want to stay governor in the state of Minnesota. I ran you know, for a four-year term and I intent to fill up that four-year term. And if I can help Senator McCain as a volunteer along the way to help get him elected as the next President of United States on my free time -- on weekends and stuff, I'm happy to do that and that's what I'm going to do. But my main focus is to be governor and I want to stay governor of the state.

Ed Morrissey: Well, once again I just asked.

Tim Pawlenty: I understand.

Ed Morrissey: Well thank you --

Tim Pawlenty: The only other thing -- even your question a few -- two questions ago you asked -- I bring to help Senator McCain, I can just help I think -- I told them at (indiscernible) literature, you know, I'm going to do if anything I can to help him. I think one way I can bring some perspective is, you know, what does it take to win in a state like Minnesota or the upper Midwest or the northeast where you know, they tend to be at best purple but really, you know, not dark blue at least light blue --

Ed Morrissey: Sort of a royal blue.

Tim Pawlenty: You know, and we used to think Minnesota was purple and evenly spread but the truth of the matter is it still tilts. The democrats still have a kind of a built-in advantage at least in the statewide races where the districts aren't carved up to favor one side or other. And so I think I can speak to -- you know, what is it -- what kind of candidates do we need to win in the upper Midwest and places like the upper Midwest that aren't deeply -- you know, that aren't forgoing conclusion blue or forgoing conclusion red.

Ed Morrissey: Well let me just ask you one follow-up question on that. One of the issues that I think he is going to run into here in Minnesota and possibly -- for Midwest is his adamant support for the war or terror and the face of it in Iraq. Now that probably is not going to play well here in Minnesota. How do you plan to reconcile his stand on the war with a state that seems to have turned against it?

Tim Pawlenty: Well it's a principled position, it kind of gets back to what I said earlier at the very onset. You know, Senator McCain is a person of such strength and such courage and such principle that even though he know something is unpopular, if he believes it's right, he will charge ahead and charge forward. And so he knows the war is unpopular nationally and it's particularly unpopular in the upper Midwest. But he has taken a principal position that he believes is right. So even though many people may not agree with that, I think they will respect his principled stand on it. He also talks eloquently about the consequences of failure and what it means and, you know, unlike Vietnam the terrorists will actually follow us home in this war. And so he is concerned about that and also the stabilized that we would leave the Middle East in and likely join us back in and are much more complex and much more difficult situation. So that's a long wanted way of saying I think while many people may not agree with his position on that, they will respect it because it's based on principle.

And I'll just close with this, there are so many people in politics who -- you know, don't follow their heart or don't follow principle or positions, I just think he is so unique and that he is courageous, he is fearless and he does things based on his view of what’s right and principle and -- again whether it's Campaign Finance Reform or something else, people then look at and say, well yes but he is not perfect or -- you know, hundred percent conservative on this issue, that may be the case -- here or there an issue, but overall he is conservative and I also again emphasis if you are going to -- anyone, not you, but anyone is going to disqualify Senator McCain for you know, not being fully conservative on one or two issues, then please apply the same standards to every one of these leading candidates in the race and if you do that we will have no one left. Because none of them can pass a hundred percent test in that regard.

Ed Morrissey: Well Governor Pawlenty, thank you very much for talking with me today.


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