Does Pawlenty lack the fervor to capture Christian right?

Tim Pawlenty may have a problem with the Christian right: He’s too nice and might not have enough of that old-time evangelical fervor, writes McKay Coppins in the Daily Beast

The former Minnesota governor’s problem, he says:

Pawlenty comes off like a Good Samaritan at a time when the religious right wants fire and brimstone.

He notes that Pawlenty did get some political buzz recently:

[W]hen it was announced that Sarah Huckabee — yes, that Huckabee, Mike’s daughter — would join his campaign in Iowa, presumably to help promote him to the evangelical community. The hire came after Pawlenty’s months-long campaign to court local churchgoers fell flat, leaving room for right-wing firebrand Michele Bachmann, a fellow evangelical, to jump in the race. With Bachmann now surging, Pawlenty, who converted from Catholicism while dating his eventual wife, Mary, is making a last-ditch grab for the support of his co-religionists.

Coppins says Pawlenty has much in common with his longtime minister, the Rev. Leith Anderson of Wooddale Church in Eden Prairie, and quotes Sarah Pulliam Bailey, a political reporter for leading evangelical magazine Christianity Today:

“[Anderson’s] not someone who’s going to lead a march to Washington; he kind of does his work behind the scenes, building consensus.”

If that sounds like it could double as a description of Pawlenty, that’s because it could, says Bailey. “They both have a very calming, not a very combative style,” she says. “They hold beliefs but they don’t like to cram them down everyone’s throats; they don’t feel comfortable attacking other people.”

Coppins interviewed Anderson, who said: “Governor Pawlenty comes across as a nice guy because he is a nice guy.”

That might not work, Coppins said:

Trouble is, in this race the nice guys run a serious risk of finishing last. What’s more, Pawlenty’s relationship with Anderson could actually harm his chances at winning over the religious right. The powerful minister’s unspoken support has likely endeared the candidate to the evangelical elite: Pawlenty recently topped an NAE survey of church leaders who were asked to identify their preferred candidate. But at the grassroots level, where it actually counts, many conservative Christians view Anderson with a strong dose of suspicion.

Concludes Coppins:

In a Christian landscape with so many diverse options, Pawlenty has eschewed the crusaders in favor of the consensus-builder. The only question now is whether evangelical voters are ready to make the same choice at the ballot box.

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Comments (2)

  1. Submitted by William Pappas on 07/12/2011 - 06:26 pm.

    Gees, if the problem is that Pawlenty is too nice they need only to point them to his record in Minnesota. When the transortation bonding bill was passed in 2009 he made sure every republican overiding his veto was defeated. He’s probably the most vindictive and name taking politician this state has ever known. He’s great at name calling and worked tirelessly to make sure hundreds of thousands of adults were no longer covered by Minncare. No one says the word “liberal” with more contempt than Pawlenty. Tim has a mean streak, don’t worry. All that nice stuff is just for show.

  2. Submitted by Nick Coleman on 07/12/2011 - 07:02 pm.

    The Daily Beast story and its writer seem unfamiliar with the real Tim Pawlenty, and to be blinded by all the “nice guy” rhetoric. If it is true that Pawlenty isn’t making inroads among evangelicals, it is NOT for lack of trying. For at least three years, Pawlenty has borrowed heavily from the right-wing Christian lexicon, repeatedly referring to obscure Old Testament passages that are intended to indicate that he is on board with the right’s zealous belief that Christians must take control of government before Jesus can return, and speaking in a kind of Biblical code meant to be a between-the-lines signal that says, “I am one of you.” This Tim Pawlenty has not been very visible in Minnesota, where overt evangelical pitches don’t play well outside of the church supper circuit. But this Pawlenty is very familiar in Iowa, and at conservative conferences and other venues where Minnesota media rarely venture. Sadly, the shallow Daily Beast story fails to pull back the curtains on the real Tim Pawlenty. For a glimpse of the real item, please see: “Tim Pawlenty: A Zealot Is Unrecognized in His Own Land” at

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