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Pawlenty’s travels: His profile rises, and Democrats respond

PLUS: Gentleman’s club survives, health pros take a German field trip, and Brett Favre attracts the attention of a sketch comedy theater.

If you’ve noticed that Tim Pawlenty seems to be traveling around a lot, you’re not alone. Curtis Gilbert and Steve Mullis of Minnesota Public radio have been keeping tabs on the governor’s trips, and have conveniently mapped them here. This past Friday found Pawlenty in Washington, D.C., at the Values Voter Summit, where he surprised nobody by criticizing Obama; MPR’s Tim Pugmire quotes Pawlenty as saying “Stop spending the country into bankruptcy,” Pawlenty said. “Stop taxing us into oblivion. And the next time you address a group of young people, maybe you should apologize for the crushing debt you’re putting on their shoulders.” There is no word whether Pawlenty mentioned Minnesota’s projected $6 billion to $7 billion deficit, or who needs to apologize for that.

Politico’s Alex Isenstadt quotes a response from Democratic National Committee spokesperson Hari Seugan: “It looks like Tim Pawlenty isn’t even going to offer the pretense of being anything but an extreme right wing radical anymore. At least it’s honest, and if you’ve seen what he’s said on health care lately you know that’s a rare feat.”

Democrats have also taken aim at Pawlenty in a more official way, according to John Croman of KARE11: They’ve started a web campaign titled “Call ‘Em Out” (which can be seen here) and claim the site is an effort to counter misinformation about health care reform. Their home page takes aim directly at Pawlenty, including an image of the governor with a speech balloon emerging from his mouth and containing the word “lies.” Their specific complaint is Pawlenty’s comments in this video, in which Pawlenty seems to hint that there is some credibility to the “death panels” tale.

According to the KARE11 story, Pawlenty public relations staff has asked that all questions be directed to one Alex Conant in Washington, without telling us who Conant is; however, Conant has a Google profile that lists him as the 2008 national press secretary for the Republican National Committee and a former White House spokesman. Conant also has his own blog, consisting of a series of brief essays in response to Democrats in general and Obama in particular. Here is his response to Pawlenty’s critics, from a statement to the media: “Seriously, why is the D.N.C.’s attack squad so obsessed with T-Paw recently. The D.N.C.’s attacks are a transparent attempt to avoid serious discussion with Governor Pawlenty and other Republicans over how to fix health care.

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While all this political back-and-forthing has certainly increased Pawlenty’s national profile, he still trails other potential candidates in the next election, should he try a run for the presidency (and he ain’t saying he is, although he ain’t saying he ain’t either). MPR’s Tom Scheck tells us that at the very same Values Voter Summit that Pawlenty addressed Friday, there was a straw poll of whom attendees might vote for in 2012. Pawlenty came in third, far behind Mike Huckabee and trailing Mitt Romney. To Pawlenty’s credit, however, he did get one more vote than Sarah Palin.

If we don’t know what Pawlenty will be doing in the next few years, at least we know what he won’t be doing: He won’t be governor. This leaves the job wide open for contenders, and while nobody has popped up who is as unexpected at the self-declared vampire Jonathon Sharkey, who mounted a notably unsuccessful campaign in 2006 (documented in the movie Impaler), at least one unexpected character has suggested he might run. That person is former Republican Congressman Jim Ramstad, who, according to MPR’s Tom Scheck, told MPR’s “Midday” program that while he has forcefully denied interest in running in the past, he has been so inundated with letters and emails encouraging him to run that “the door is open just a crack.” According to Scheck, another reason Ramstad is considering a run is that there are currently no moderates in the race.

On that subject, Politico offers up an interesting story by Glenn Thrush on House Minority Leader John Boehner’s often unsuccessful struggles to keep the Republican Party’s rhetoric moderate and its behavior bipartisan. Michelle Bachmann makes a brief cameo in the story, on page two: “Sources say they have been especially wary of the possible damage inflicted on the party’s reputation by bomb-throwing Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), who last fall called for an investigation into whether members of Congress are ‘pro-America or anti-America.'”

A 13-member team of delegates, mostly made up of health care professionals, will be heading from Minnesota to Germany this week, according to the Associated Press. Their charge: to look at the German health care system, which managed to cover everybody, and which has a system of private health care insurance that is overseen by the government.

Those of you who have been fearing that the King of Diamonds gentleman’s club might close now that its former owner former owner, Larry Kladek, is going to do federal prison time, fear not! According to Joy Powell of the Star Tribune, Kladek’s wife has taken over the club and plans to keep it running. The story is possibly most notable for the way Powell cuts right to the chase with her lede sentence: “The naked women strut on 9-inch heels, illuminated by scores of neon beer signs at the King of Diamonds Gentleman’s Club in Inver Grove Heights.” Pure poetry, that.

We’ve got to find a way to do it from the start,” Judd Zulgad of the Star Tribune quotes Brett Favre in a story about their victory over the Lions, which was the result of a late-game rally. The story also quotes Brad Childress as saying, “There is no such thing as a bad win,” but notes that the Vikings coach probably “wasn’t so kind behind closed doors.” The Pioneer Press notes that Favre seems to have injured his hand at the end of the game, and while Favre dismissed the injury, saying, “It’s fine,” it’s sort of hard to hear things like that and not think, well, here he goes, that’s the end of the Favre saga. Favre’s relationship with the Vikings, in which he has blown hot, then cold, then lukewarm, and then somehow managed to blow both hot and cold simultaneously, seems to have inspired a performance at the Brave New Workshop. MinnPost’s David Hawley tells us it is called “Brett Favre’s Christmas Spectacular: The Immaculate Interception.”