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Why T-Paw?

I like him and a lot of the time I don’t like politics.  Oh, I love politics: I’m obsessed with it; I think it’s awfully important, and that history isn’t worth telling without it.  But, I don’t really like it.  The players are too calculating, it’s too disconnected from the public (how much does the average person contribute beyond voting?), and there are too many hurdles to actually get anything done.  The process is just totally bankrupt.  But, I like Tim Pawlenty.  I feel I can trust him.  Here’s an example from the first Pawlenty profile I ever read, way back in 2006:

Tim Pawlenty’s campaign smile fell as he noticed a girl crying at a table on the first morning of the Minnesota State Fair. He sat down and cradled her shoulders as her parents told him the story: She had seen a horrific car accident outside the fair’s main gate. Someone had died, and she was upset. The girl nodded as Pawlenty spoke softly to her. Patting her on the back, he rejoined his entourage.

Approaching a breakfast hall up the block, Pawlenty saw the overturned car on Snelling Avenue. He told the girl’s story – but others nearby shook their heads. There were injuries, they told the governor, but no fatalities.

Pawlenty looked stunned. “Oh, I gotta go back and tell her,” he said to his handlers. “I’ll be right back.”

But the girl had vanished. So in the next instant, fairgoers witnessed the surreal sight of the governor of Minnesota running headlong down the street, security guards huffing after him. It was several minutes before his bright red shirt was again visible, bobbing through the crowd two blocks away, heading back for breakfast. He had found her, and the world was right.

That’s just nice and rare and it stuck with me for longer than these things should.  I like it when my politicians are real, decent people, and I suspect that, in 2012, a little genuineness will go a long way.  Earnest is still in the American character.

But, that’s just surface stuff and probably wouldn’t be worth talking about by itself (I know nice guys/gals I wouldn’t trust to run a grocery store).  Luckily, Pawlenty’s also a two-term Governor of a Democratic state with a pretty solidly conservative record.  This year he became the first Governor in Minnesota’s history to cut net spending over a two-year biennium.  It went down by 7.6%.  He’s been part of impressive reforms on health care and education without too much government intervention.  On health-care he’s promoted e-prescribing and transparency on cost and quality so that patients care how much their treatment costs after they’ve plunked down their co-pay.

On education, he’s promoted school choice and e-learning so that, instead of putting up new buildings, we’re investing in something which has essentially no marginal cost for additional students.  This is 21st century stuff and it’s perfectly in keeping with conservative principles.  Romney may speak fluently about the economy, but nobody talks more sensibly about bread and butter issues than Pawlenty.  But, maybe most importantly, Pawlenty checks all the big boxes.  He’s pro-life, pro-gun, and pro-traditional marriage, but he’s not offensive about any of it.  I’m a blue-state Republican and there’s nothing about the way Pawlenty talks about cultural issues that would scare away blue-state swing voters.  That’s a pretty remarkable thing.  I can’t even come close to making the complete case in one post (and if I could, there’d probably be no need for this blog), but that’s a good start.

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