It’s two years away, but speculation surrounding the 2012 presidential race is alive and kicking, if only for the increasingly irrefutable fact that anyone who intends to run without immediate access to a cable news soapbox is starting the 2012 campaign at a severe disadvantage. It is the uphill battle facing possible Republican presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty, who, from the Minnesota Governor’s mansion must be watching potential challengers like Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee, and Newt Gingrich milk their cable news contracts for all they’re worth.
Mitt Romney managed to somewhat dubiously get himself into the news cycle this week too, and even Dick Cheney, who despite denying any interest in the presidency is topping Republican presidential contender polls along with Palin et al, is keeping his face in the public eye.
Pawlenty is taking an unorthodox approach compared to his would-be opponents: making media appearances to debate substantive issues. He has willingly stepped into the ring to debate health care with President Obama, taking advantage of the President’s call for a bipartisan health care summit on February 25th to publicly list off his ideas on the topic. On Sunday, the Washington Post published an opinion piece by the governor entitled “Five Ways to Reform Health Care,” and last night Pawlenty appeared on Fox News to explain his ideas to Greta Van Susteren on air. It’s a comprehensive conservative approach that highlights the token set of problems Republicans have been pointing out with the current reform – interstate insurance availability, tort reform, a more meritocratic approach to awarding insurance companies. It goes beyond a simple grocery list of possible changes in the way the American health care industry works: it’s a sizable chunk of a campaign platform.
Pawlenty’s approach, if he decides to run for office, is as thoughtful as it is risky. Anger and populist outrage sell in the age of the Tea Party, and Pawlenty is marketing himself as a near-technocratic, mild-mannered critic with ideas that don’t betray an urgency to save the nation from the socialist threat of the Obama administration. On the air, he is still working on mastering his calm, capable “presidential” demeanor without coming off so anemic – it’s clear why the other potential candidates get so much air time on Fox and he doesn’t. On the other hand, by defying mainstream demand he may be tapping into a niche market of voters that are searching for someone less animated and more studious on the problems facing the country.
Here is Pawlenty’s appearance on On the Record to expand upon his opinion piece in the Post: