Pete, I want to echo your remarks. This is not an isolated instance for Pawlenty, unfortunately. One senses that he is bizarrely using Mitt Romney, circa 2008, as his role model. In his CPAC speech: “Pawlenty also made a strong pitch for the support of the religious right. ‘God is in charge,’ he said, criticizing the ‘naysayers who try to crowd out God.’ If God is ‘good enough for the Founding Fathers, it should be good enough for us.’” He sure is trying real hard. And in his earnestness to ingratiate himself with social conservatives, he risks precisely the problem that plagued Romney in 2008: coming across as inauthentic.
Meanwhile, the 2012 Mitt Romney, according to Ben Smith, “is a more constant, seasoned, and comfortable figure, one whose applause lines match up more closely with his record, and whose protégé – Senator Scott Brown – is his party’s hottest star.” (Wait, that’s not right… Marco Rubio is plainly the party’s hottest star.) The lesson here seems to be that you can’t successfully run for president by trying to be somebody you aren’t, or by trying to turbocharge rhetoric that doesn’t come to you naturally.
In a Purple state, Pawlenty has been a successful governor with compelling ideas on everything from health care to deficit control. Focusing on that is his best bet. It’s early, very early in the pre-campaign jockeying, and now is the time to make mistakes. But if this is his game plan for 2012, he should rethink it.