So you think the 2008 presidential election started too early. Try this on for size: Gov. Tim Pawlenty will run for a third term in 2010.
No, it’s not writ on stone; it just makes sense.
The Republican governor is going to need a job when this one expires. It is also probable Republicans won’t control the White House come January 2009, losing the ability to make federal appointments. So a lot of Republicans already in Washington are going to be looking for jobs.
Pawlenty is heading Sen. John McCain’s presidential effort in Minnesota, and there has been talk that Pawlenty could be his running mate. Right now, it doesn’t look like McCain is going to be his party’s nominee next year. And if 2008 isn’t going to be a Republican presidential year, a young, bright and popular Republican governor with ambition could use a holding position until 2012.
So why not take another run at Minnesota’s top government job? Apparently it’s crossed his mind. “Gov. Pawlenty plans to make a decision about whether or not he’ll consider a third term sometime after the 2008 election,” his spokesman, Brian McClung, told MinnPost in an email.
Pawlenty, a former legislator, was elected in 2002 and reelected in 2006. There has been no crippling scandal on his watch, though DFLers have tried mightily to pin the I-35 bridge collapse on his administration. He has kept the lid on state taxes, though DFLers point to the “health impact fee” tacked on cigarettes and contend local property taxes are heading skyward because of the governor’s parsimony.
Good poll numbers
The public likes him right now. A Star Tribune Minnesota Poll taken in September showed his second-highest-ever job approval, 59 percent. The poll was taken after two potential hits to his popularity, the Aug. 1 bridge collapse and the flooding of parts of southeastern Minnesota.
Pawlenty has plenty of time to make up his mind. In the meantime, he can look to North Dakota where Republican Gov. John Hoeven already is running for a third four-year term in 2008. If Hoeven can grab the brass ring again in a year not considered good for Republicans, Pawlenty would be encouraged to do it two years later.
State Republican Party chair Ron Carey hasn’t talked to Pawlenty about another term, but says a third term is a good idea. “I can’t think of a good reason why Minnesotans wouldn’t want Gov. Pawlenty to run for a third term. He has a record of success.”
No Minnesotan has been elected to a third four-year term as governor since voters amended the state Constitution and doubled the length of a term starting with the 1962 election.
Not that it hasn’t been tried. DFLer Rudy Perpich ran four times (1978, 1982, 1986 and 1990). He won twice (1982 and 1986).
Candidates have won the gubernatorial trifecta when the terms were for two years. DFLer Orville L. Freeman ran five times. He won three times (1954, 1956 and 1958) and lost twice (1952 and 1960). Republicans have done it, too: Luther W. Youngdahl won in 1946, 1948 and 1950. Harold E. Stassen did it in 1938, 1940 and 1942.