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Pawlenty prepares ‘new face’

Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty is positioning himself to be one of the new faces of the battered and bruised national Republican Party.

The following is an editorial from The Forum of Fargo/Moorhead.

Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty is positioning himself to be one of the new faces of the battered and bruised national Republican Party. His announcement that he will not seek a third term as governor was as much about his unstated presidential ambitions as it was about his stated intention to work hard for his state in his remaining 19 months in office.

To no one’s surprise, the governor was circumspect regarding his potential candidacy in the 2012 Republican presidential primaries. He made no commitment, nor did he close the door. In other words, he’s running. As if to signal his intentions, Pawlenty said his party is in trouble because, as the party of the marketplace, it is losing the sale. Voters, he said, are buying the message and candidates of the Democratic Party.

He’s right. He also apparently believes the Pawlenty brand of conservative Republicanism would be a better sell. He’s right about that, too.

As long as the dominant Republican voices are radio bloviator Rush Limbaugh and yesterday’s news Newt Gingrich, the party will languish in its stew of angry, out-of-touch rhetoric. As long as party leadership is as embarrassing and hapless as RNC Chairman Michael Steele, voters will look elsewhere for conservative values that comport with American inclusiveness. As long as Republicans are identified as “the party of no,” fewer and fewer Republicans will be elected to the U.S. House and Senate.

Pawlenty’s positions are mostly mainstream conservative, but not so rigid as to preclude a Republican “big tent.” He’s established his credentials as a no-new-taxes governor.

He’s made the tough budget-cutting calls that will resonate with Republican conservatives. On the big hot-button issues — gun control, abortion — he’s with his party’s platform. But on other issues — alternative energy and environment — he often sounds like a Democrat.

The governor will be out of office in a few months. The preliminaries for the presidential primaries in the run-up to the 2012 election will begin in 2010, if they are not under way already. The first substantive indication that Pawlenty is serious about a presidential bid will be when he establishes an exploratory committee. That’s a requirement to get the fundraising ball rolling.

Pawlenty said he wants to bring new ideas and new faces to the Republican Party. He measures up on both counts. The governor’s success in Minnesota, his personal style, his leadership at the National Governor’s Association and the excellent impression he made on the national scene during the 2008 presidential cycle surely place him on the short list of Republican presidential possibilities for 2012.

Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper’s Editorial Board.