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Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty on GOP reconciliation

Wednesday, February 6, 2008
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HH: Joined now from Minnesota by Governor Tim Pawlenty of the Gopher State. Governor, good to talk to you again. How’s my room shaping up for the convention?

TP: Hugh, your room is looking good. It’s on the smallish side, and kind of the juvenile-age poster stuff is probably inappropriate, but we’re going to get that fixed for you before you get here.

HH: Good, because tell Mrs. Pawlenty I’ve got a nice housewarming gift. I’m going to be very generous in that regard, so I’m looking…I won’t be much of a nuisance at all.

TP: I am, and I’m going to name a special day for you as well.

HH: Well, I’m looking forward to that. Hey Governor, yesterday was Super Tuesday day, and Minnesota went for Mitt Romney. You’re a John McCain guy. The question is now Humpty Dumpty, pieces together again. You’ve been doing this a long time. How hard is it going to be the for the Republican Party to pull this together after a nominee emerges? John McCain’s obviously the prohibitive frontrunner right now.

TP: Well, there’s obviously, Hugh, some work to do, and that needs to be taken seriously and genuinely. And there’s obviously some campaign yet to go, so we don’t want to be presumptuous about the outcome. But if Senator McCain is the frontrunner, as it appears that he is, things that will unify the party will include the prospect of Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama being president. I also believe that once we do have a candidate that the other candidates will be supportive and help the healing or uniting process that will need to take place. And also, I think Senator McCain will do his part to give assurances and confidence to conservatives that he is going to be with them and for them on most of the major things that will be coming up during this presidency.

HH: Now you signed up with him long before anyone wanted to sign up with anyone, and you stuck with him through the dead pool days. Those are the days when everyone thought he was going to get out, including everyone at my blog, and this radio station. Why’d you do it?

TP: Well, I’ve been acquainted with Senator McCain for over twenty years, so I have a lot of personal loyalty to him beyond politics. Newsweek Magazine, I think, summed it up best, and it said that his character has been tested in ways that other politicians can only imagine. And you know his epic life story. I won’t repeat it. He has got a lot of strength, as a person, as a leader. I think he’s extremely courageous. Not everybody’s going to agree with him on everything, but also, Hugh, there’s no perfect candidate in this race. None of us on this Earth are perfect. And I would go so far as to say, as much as we loved Ronald Reagan, and do love him, and he’s an icon for all of us. As a conservative, he wasn’t perfect. He had to engage in compromise, and did some things that if you look back on it now, probably wouldn’t pass the smell test or the scrutiny test for conservatives today, either. So I understand some of the concerns. I think they can be addressed, and Senator McCain’s record addresses them to a point. But I think he can also address them as the campaign unfolds.

HH: All right, now yesterday, obviously, the Caucuses went for Romney up in Minnesota. You know, Governor Romney. You served alongside him in the Governor’s association. The Romney people in Minnesota, are they going to come and play ball if it in fact turns out to be McCain after a spirited, continued campaign by Mitt Romney right through St. Paul?

TP: We need to tip the cap to Governor Romney in Minnesota. He did a good job here, and I do know him from Governor’s association stuff. And otherwise, he’s a smart and capable and good individual. We’ve got a lot of good candidates in this race. I just think one is exceptional. But in Minnesota, Senator McCain led all the public polls, leading before the Caucuses, of all Republicans. But obviously, he didn’t do well with the sub-group of Republicans who attend the Caucuses. But Senator McCain, I think, if his record gets out there, people will see many things. Not everything, but many things that they will find attractive. But also, he’s going to have to, and he accepts this challenge, of doing the work, and giving the assurances about the things that he will prioritize and do as president that will be hopefully exciting and positive for conservatives.

HH: Do you think he’s going to let talk radio in the convention hall there in St. Paul?

TP: (laughing) Of course.

HH: I don’t know (laughing)

TP: Of course.

HH: It’s awfully cold out. I mean, it could be awfully hot outside the building.

TP: (laughing) He will, but you know, just three things, and I know, Hugh, we’ve got to be short here because of the radio, but I think he’s going to win the war, he’s going to crank down on spending hard, and he appears to be in the strongest position to beat Hillary Clinton. And those are three among other things. For example, and I’d be happy to go through them with you, but he was criticized for his role in the Gang of 14 as it relates to Supreme Court justices. But the net effect of his efforts, and his results were, he gave us Justices Alito and Roberts, two of the most conservative judges on the Court by any standards. And so people are mad about the process, but look at the results he achieved. He got two conservatives that probably wouldn’t make it under today’s environment through and onto the Court, and I think he should at least be appreciated for that result.

HH: Well, rather than debate particulars…

TP: Yeah.

HH: I want to look ahead to November at this point, and ask you about Minnesota. First of all, your friend and mine, Norm Coleman, has got a tough race there. He’s been out here to raise money, and he’s going to be out to California to raise money again. A) How’s that looking? B) In terms of…Minnesota’s been close but no cigar for the Republicans in ’04 and ’00. Can they put it over the line with John McCain or Mitt Romney for that matter?

TP: I think…yeah, you know, Minnesota has not gone Republican in a presidential race since 1972. The polls at the moment show Senator McCain being the only Republican candidate ahead of Hillary Clinton. So that’s promising, but as you know, six or eight months between now and November’s a long time. As to Senator Coleman, he is a great Senator and a dynamic campaigner, and he’s raising a lot of money. Now this tends to be a state that leans a little towards the Democrats. We used to say it’s purple. I think it’s probably a little light blue. And it’s probably not going to be the best of Republican years, so Norm’s got to climb up that hill. But on the positive side of the ledger, he’s done a good job, he’s dynamic, and he’s running against, in all likelihood, Al Franken. And Al Franken’s favorability or positive ratings in Minnesota are not very good. And I have a hard time believing in the serious times that we live in, that even in Minnesota, you know, that people would seriously consider putting Al Franken in the U.S. Senate.

HH: Hope you’re right. Last question, Tim Pawlenty, you’ve been to Iraq a couple of time, maybe more. The Minnesota National Guardsmen and reservists who are over there, what do they say about the war?

TP: Boy, the morale and tempo and feeling of the members of the military, including our guard right now, is really quite positive. They see the effects of the surge, and the related strategies have taken hold. And the work that we’ve done to kind of get the provincial powers that be on our side, the surge is working. They see that, and that makes them even more proud of their work. And so it’s a positive morale, and a positive outlook since Petraeus and the surge…and throughout, they’ve been proud, but even more proud now that they’re seeing good progress.

HH: Governor Tim Pawlenty, always a pleasure to talk with you, Governor, look forward to seeing you in St. Paul, and I really won’t need much at all. I’m a very easy houseguest. Thank you, Governor.

End of interview.

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