Pawlenty’s shortcoming: Charisma?

Minnesota native (Eden Prairie) Aaron Blake now writes for The Fix political blog at the Washington Post and on Thursday he decided to go through the top 10 contenders for the 2012 presidential nomination and describe the biggest vulnerability of each.

The good news for Minnesota native (St. Paul and Eagan) Tim Pawlenty is that he is on the list. Here what Blake said about Pawlenty’s biggest vulnerability:

Tim Pawlenty – Charisma (or lack thereof)

As problems go, lacking charisma isn’t as ugly as a bad vote or a personal scandal, but it can be just as deadly for a presidential candidate. The Minnesota governor is still unknown to the vast majority of people, and whenever a largely unknown candidate has burst onto the scene (read: Huckabee, Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter), they usually have a personal flair that allows them to overcome money and name ID problems. We have yet to see that from Pawlenty, though he’s still got a chance to make a first impression on most primary voters.”

Personally, I don’t feel that about TPaw. He’s thinner than Haley Barbour, handsomer than Mike Huckabee, funnier than Mike Pence, more regular guy than Mitt Romney. I think his biggest vulnerability is running as a model fiscal conservative while leaving behind a huge deficit plus accounting tricks that make it even bigger.

Anyway, being declared charisma-challenged isn’t the worst you could do. Sarah Palin’s biggest vulnerability (according to Blake and his sources) is “Sarah Palin.”

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Comments (9)

  1. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 11/29/2010 - 10:03 am.

    Great piece except for one small detail, Eric.

    As required per Minnesota’s constitution, Pawlenty signed a balanced budget each and every year he was Governor.

    We have a *projected* deficit this year which can, and will, be satisfied one way or another.

    Facts matter, Eric.

  2. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 11/29/2010 - 10:03 am.

    Hard to argue with the conclusion(s) about both Pawlenty and Palin. Having only been here for a single legislative session, I can’t speak to relationships with the legislature or other public and private figures in Minnesota before my arrival, but “fiscal conservatism” doesn’t fly in my household when you leave behind billions of dollars in deficit. If you’re going to stick to a “no new taxes” pledge, then a certain degree of intellectual honesty is required in the form of specific and public cuts in spending.

    Charisma is, in fact, necessary if you want to be elected to the presidency (plenty of House and Senate members appear to be completely lacking in personality, so it’s apparently not nearly as much of an issue in those contexts), but we put Richard Nixon in the White House twice, unfortunately, so a lack of said charisma may not, in itself, be a fatal flaw. I’m not likely to vote for Mr. Pawlenty, but it has nothing to do with his personality.

    Ms. Palin has charisma by the bucketful, which is also unfortunate, since there doesn’t appear to be anything going on between her ears to match it. Should she choose to run, it’ll be an interesting (read: potentially terrifying) test of the degree to which the American public is willing to buy into demagoguery.

  3. Submitted by Brian Simon on 11/29/2010 - 12:58 pm.

    I’ll say here what I said there (the Fix) last week: Pawlenty doesn’t lack charisma, he lacks the kind of charisma that takes over a room. Pawlenty’s charisma is the boy-next-door type, that helps him come across as reasonable, likeable and rational. I expect he will surprise the analysts that are predicting a poor showing for him in the 2012 race.

  4. Submitted by Richard Schulze on 11/29/2010 - 01:05 pm.

    Nice post. I agree with your point about the governor trying to create the narrative of being a fiscal conservative.

    If you take a look and start to relate the governor’s political statements to reality, you’ll find there is a wide gap. A large piece of all these budget problems go back to when Pawlenty was Majority Leader in the House. The expectation that we will economically grow our way out of the problem. The reality is quite the opposite. We have grown our way into the problem and the problem has become larger because we’ve been rolling over deficits for the past eight years. The governor through deferrals and borrowing did just enough to manage to kick to problems into Dayton’s term as governor.

    The fact that a candidate hasn’t been very successful at getting voters to recognize his name is often a sign that he is an unremarkable candidate. The governor has not exactly been invisible.

  5. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 11/29/2010 - 01:20 pm.

    Actually, King Timmy does have charisma, but it’s of a certain limited-but-very-powerful variety. Since he’s never had an original idea in his life, his charisma does not include being able to rouse a crowd to agree with his ideas and to follow him in pursuing them.

    Rather his charisma consists in his ability to mask himself, his ideas, his ideals, and the policies he bases on them. This was shown by the way people whose lives were increasingly being negatively impacted by King Timmy’s policies continued to think of him as a “nice young man” and took an amazingly long time to connect the dots between Timmy and the de-funding of the nursing homes, public schools, highway and police departments, mental health care, home health care, and programs to provide healthcare for the impoverished, off which he was directly responsible for.

    Nor did they rapidly connect the dots between Timmy and their rising property taxes, nor between the little King and the decreasing tax rates and skyrocketing incomes of Tim’s fabulously wealthy friends while they, themselves, saw their incomes and benefits stagnate and move in reverse.

    If we could see King Timmy’s true visage, he’d look a good deal like “Skeletor” from the old “He Man” cartoons, but somehow, he can project an image much closer to that of Mr. Rogers from the Old PBS show by that name.

    If the Republicans knew the power and value of Tim’s special variety of Charisma, they would be only too anxious to make him their, nice, young, kind-hearted, national king because he could do such an excellent job of reassuring (or at least placating) the public while they did everything in their power to bring to completion their 30-year project to strip the poor and middle class of their income, their assets, their property, and any hope they ever had of a decent job or a comfortable retirement.

  6. Submitted by Hénock Gugsa on 11/29/2010 - 04:08 pm.

    Some things about Mr. Pawlenty that are probably too obvious …

    He is bland, unoriginal, and mediocre. As for overall charisma, one bushel is approximately 74.5 pints. I looked it up! Let’s be generous and give him 10 pints.

    And what someone said about Mr. Pawlenty’s “projected” deficit for this year, all we know is that it is still going to be a deficit. So nothing to crow about there.

    Having said all of that, I will still pick Tim Pawlenty over Mitt Romney any day.

  7. Submitted by Steve Rose on 11/30/2010 - 08:20 am.


    A bushel is 64 pints, and I didn’t look it up. You must be mixing dry and liquid measures or perhaps US and UK.


    I give you personal flair regarding Clinton, and to a lesser degree Huckabee. But Carter? Hardly.

    Ray (#2):

    “Should she choose to run, it’ll be an interesting (read: potentially terrifying) test of the degree to which the American public is willing to buy into demagoguery.”

    We ran that experiment in 2008, and we all know the result. We got an inexperienced President, with the lowest qualifications among the contenders, both Dem & Repub. So, we know it can be done.

  8. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 11/30/2010 - 09:31 am.

    //As required per Minnesota’s constitution, Pawlenty signed a balanced budget each and every year he was Governor.

    Yes, facts matter, and some facts matter more than others. I’ll see your “fact” and raise you. The fact is Pawlenty never produced a truly balanced budget, nothing but deficits. All the projected deficits turned out to be real deficits, and the one projected surplus turned out to be an election season lie.

    As for charisma, Pawlenty is and always has been the definition of mediocrity. The guy actually told state officials in a meeting once that average was good enough for him. He didn’t win either election with a convincing majority, and he’s never been impressively popular for more than a few weeks. His economic policies are a failure and his politics have never enjoyed majority support in MN.

    The one thing that Pawlenty has going for him is the fact that his actual record as Governor is completely irrelevant. Bush proved that. No matter how bad a Governor is, it’s simply the fact they were a Governor that seems to impress voters. There’s still a lot of time between now and 2012, but Pawlenty doesn’t seem to be getting any traction, and it’s not for lack of trying. I’m not sure charisma can be the culprit, I think if Bob Dole, Jimmy Carter, and Richard Nixon, and I don’t think “charsima”. I actually think for whatever reason, his mediocrity shows, and people aren’t impressed.

    Pawlenty had a good thing going for a while there in MN when the media inexplicably decided he was a “likable” guy (as apposed to Arne Carlson who apparently was impossible to “like”). The national media is unlikely to adopt and promote that myth however.

  9. Submitted by Bernice Vetsch on 11/30/2010 - 10:20 am.

    Maybe someone can dig up early Pawlenty TV appearances in which his SNEER is prominent when he talks, for instance, about those he categorizes as preferring to remain dependent rather than get jobs.

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