OK, we’re not disputing that last night’s “big” FoxNews debate in Iowa will barely be remembered six months from now, but there is no end of learned-sounding copy coming out of it.
John Whitesides of Reuters writes: “Two days before an Iowa straw poll that is a critical test for his lagging presidential campaign, Pawlenty dropped his nice-guy image in Thursday’s debate and sharply criticized rival Michele Bachmann for a lack of accomplishment. Pawlenty, trailing Bachmann in Republican 2012 presidential polls and battling her for the same conservative voters, took a calculated risk that he needed to shed his mild-mannered approach and play rough if he wanted to make up ground in Iowa. But he did not always look comfortable in the attack dog role, and several commentators panned his performance as unconvincing.
At the New York Times, Evan Lehman writes: “The controversial system to reduce carbon dioxide emissions that was used potently against Democrats last year is being turned into ammunition against Republican candidates for president. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) repeatedly tore into former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty last night for his past support of a cap-and-trade program during an Iowa debate featuring eight Republicans seeking their party’s nomination. A surging tea party adherent, Bachmann accused the flagging Pawlenty, once considered a leading climate advocate, of pursuing policies identical to those of President Obama. … Pawlenty is one of several Republican candidates who have retreated from previous positions acknowledging the science of climate change, and a need to address it. Others include former Rep. Newt Gingrich (R- Ga.) and former Govs. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts and Jon Huntsman of Utah.”
Maggie Haberman of Politico looks at best/worst case scenarios for the GOP field. As for our kids, she says:
Best-case scenario: flat out victory with an unambiguous first-place finish. That would drive his momentum, put him back in contention as a Mitt Romney alternative and offer irrefutable proof of life (and a source of free media) as he heads into fall. More important that anything else, a big, clear-cut win would give his bundlers and fundraisers a trophy to brandish with donor prospects — something that is crucial for him if he’s to continue after going all-in in Iowa.
Worst-case scenario: He finishes fourth, behind Rick Santorum and/or Herman Cain. Realistically, Pawlenty’s floor is third place. Numerous Iowa GOP insiders say that after the former Minnesota governor’s investment of time, money, staff and energy in the state, he can’t finish behind Michele Bachmann. But a third-place showing might still allow him to continue, crippled, for a time into the fall. Fourth place is a likely campaign death.
Best-case scenario: a blowout win at the straw poll. She bests Pawlenty’s organization and Ron Paul’s devoted followers, then arrives for a round of already-scheduled Sunday morning talk show appearances as the new woman to be reckoned with. From there, Bachmann cuts into Rick Perry’s thunder at the Black Hawk County GOP fundraiser in Waterloo later that day. The Minnesota congresswoman could use her big win to further assure high-dollar donors that she’s a contender and would make it much tougher for Perry to peel away her supporters.
Worst case scenario: She comes in third or worse after the votes are cast. The results are unspinnable after a high campaign arc that shot her from tea party favorite to the top of the national polls, and in Iowa. Suddenly, Pawlenty’s ‘shooting star’ description of her would be hard to overcome, and while Bachmann would continue to trudge along in the coming months, she’d most likely see her supporters start drifting toward Perry fairly quickly.”
At Forbes, Jerry Weissman says: “[D]riven by the broad reach of cable news channels and websites on both sides of the political fence, the contentiousness has escalated by an order of magnitude. With the presidential election 15 months away, we can only anticipate — and dread —how negative the campaign will be between Republicans and Democrats. … But the negativity has already begun within the Republican Party. Last night, in anticipation of Saturday’s straw poll in Iowa — and what will be the first direct indicator in the campaign — eight declared candidates met for a televised debate at Iowa State University. As expected, President Obama was the primary target of attack, but so were the Republicans at the other lecterns. In what the New York Times report characterized as ‘a burst of incivility,’ the candidates went after each other. Most pointed was the one minute exchange between Tim Pawlenty, the former Minnesota governor, and current Minnesota Representative Michele Bachmann.”
At The New Yorker, Amy Davidson writes: “Pawlenty’s side of the fight was ill fought. He kept repeating that Bachmann really was a ceaseless fighter for what she said she believed in, but that she hadn’t won many of those battles, and so should not win this one. But that fit quite well with Bachmann’s narrative — that Pawlenty was a hypocrite and a sellout, and that, with actual Presidential power, she would be just as extreme as she promises. There was an anecdote that, whatever the true details of the legislative fight, played badly for Pawlenty, about how he supposedly maneuvered Bachmann and other legislators into the position of having to raise taxes or loosen abortion restrictions. (She said she chose taxes: ‘I believe you can get money wrong. You can’t get life wrong.’) Bachmann, in her silver shiny suit, looked like a spaceship commander, while Pawlenty didn’t even seem in charge of his answers. But what may have been most harmful is that Pawlenty went into this debate with the burden of having come across as too timid in his encounter, in the last one, with Mitt Romney. His attacks on Bachmann suggest that he doesn’t have what a moderator called some ‘Minnesota nice’ problem with confrontation itself; he just has a problem with confronting Romney.”
Also at Politico, Kendra Marr notes T-Paw laying out the cash in preparation for Saturday’s straw poll: “The Pawlenty campaign is buying straw poll tickets for its supporters and will have campaign T-shirts waiting on the buses that are hitting every major metropolitan region, activists said. Some buses have been directed to stop in the more rural areas of the state on the way to Ames to pick up additional supporters. The campaign will also be running continuous shuttles between Ankeny and Ames, which is about a 30-minute drive, for those who want to vote and leave right away. Another Pawlenty shuttle will be picking Iowans up from a Walmart parking lot a few miles from Ames, helping them skip the hassles of finding parking and crowds. With the largest paid campaign staff in Iowa and the longest list of endorsements from members of the state GOP, political observers agree Pawlenty has the organizational upper hand. They’re also heavy on the campaign gear. In an email to supporters Monday, Pawlenty’s campaign manager, Nick Ayers, offered ‘one-of-a-kind prizes’ — like signed hockey jerseys and copies of Pawlenty’s autobiography — in exchange for placing phone calls on the candidate’s behalf. And for the past week, volunteers and paid staffers have been working the phones, reminding Iowans to attend the straw poll — as many as three times a week.”
And what do they know about history? Megan Boldt’s PiPress story on Minnesota kids’ science scores is not encouraging: “Minnesota students’ scores on state science exams remained stagnant this year, with just half meeting state standards. And Minnesota’s all-too-familiar achievement gap between students of color and their white peers persists. At each grade level, whites scored the highest as a group and black students the lowest. About 48 percent of test takers met or exceeded academic benchmarks, a 1 percentage point drop from 2010, according to data released today from the Minnesota Department of Education. More than 179,000 students in grades five and eight and high schoolers took the online, interactive test this spring for the fourth year. ‘We’re seeing similar problems in math. Scores are flat … and that’s not good,’ said Minnesota Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius. High school students were the only group to post any gains in 2011, with 54 percent proficient compared with 52 percent last year. Eighth-graders performance actually dropped by 3 percentage-points to 45 percent proficient. And fifth-graders proficiency rates remained flat at 47 percent.”
So when is a lobbyist not a lobbyist? Jon Collins of The Minnesota Independent continues bird-dogging the American Legislative Exchange Council, the Koch brothers- and Walmart-funded group “coordinating” bill-writing with willing legislators around the country. Says Collins: “The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is a non-profit organization that brings corporations together with state lawmakers to create and advocate for model legislation. Minnesota experts on lobbyist disclosure say ALEC’s activity here requires the group to register as a lobbyist under state law. ALEC denies that the organization lobbies state legislators. ‘We’re not lobbyists because we don’t lobby, none of our staff are registered lobbyists,’ ALEC spokesperson Raegan Weber told the Minnesota Independent Wednesday. ‘We take a policy position. Just as most Americans have an opinion on policy, so do we, but we do not do a call to action, according to the IRS there has to be a call to action’.”
Using the word “courageously” to describe the police shooting of a guy is always a little tricky. Paul Walsh of the Strib says: “Minneapolis police officers ‘acted appropriately and courageously’ when one of them shot and wounded a 23-year-old man earlier this week who was suspected of shooting someone else, Chief Tim Dolan said Friday. With Dolan’s assessment comes the return to duty of the five officers — some on-duty and others working an off-duty assignment — involved in the wounding and apprehension of Leroy Martinez, of Minneapolis. Martinez was charged Tuesday with second-degree assault in connection with a shooting the night before near the playground of the Little Earth of United Tribes public housing complex. Like Martinez, the victim in that shooting is expected to live.”