Let’s look ahead — far ahead: Pawlenty runs for a third term

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.

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Comments (5)

  1. Submitted by John Olson on 12/13/2007 - 08:24 am.

    Well, lets see here….

    In 2002, Pawlenty had the fortune of running in a three-way race against Roger Moe (DFL) and Tim Penny (Ind).

    In 2006, Pawlenty had Mike Hatch as a challenger.

    In 2010, Pawlenty would probably be an early favorite (if he chooses to run again) since the DFL has a wounded state organization and an apparent lack of any vision. I’m not a huge Pawlenty fan, but right now he probably represents the proverbial “lesser of two evils” until we see who enters the race from the DFL side.

  2. Submitted by Matty Lang on 12/13/2007 - 10:21 am.

    I attribute Pawlenty’s September poll numbers to the bizarre tendency folks seem to have to support their leaders regardless of results in times of crisis (bridge collapse).

    Governor Pawlenty’s dismal record shines through, however, as Minnesota’s economy continues to fall back to the pack while our property taxes continue to climb. These results are in large part due to the Governor’s refusal to fund critical state needs like transportation and education.

    I’ve lost track of how many times the Governor has vetoed much needed investments in our transportation system. I’ve also lost track of how many time he’s cut LGA to the two most populated cities in the state forcing them to raise the regressive property tax.

    As long as Pawlenty stays consistent between now and 2012 I say, run Tim run! It would be my pleasure to see the Governor dismissed from his post due to his poor performance on the job.

  3. Submitted by John Olson on 12/13/2007 - 12:02 pm.

    Matty, I will generally agree with you but if the DFL nominates another left-winger to appease that side of the party (think of someone like John Marty), it will be an uphill fight.

    You won’t get any arguments from me on the vetoes or recent lack of investment under Pawlenty, but the DFL needs to deliver a viable candidate (and I do not know who that is, to be honest).

    Also keep in mind that 2010 will be the last election until reapportionment takes place again. My own guess is that redistricting will probably result in more suburban districts at the expense of the inner cities and predominantly rural areas.

  4. Submitted by Ron Link on 12/13/2007 - 12:33 pm.

    I’m sorry, why is it probable that the Republicans won’t control the White House in January 2009? I am sure you had the same thoughts before the last two elections. Maybe possible is the word you were trying to come up with since anything is possible.

  5. Submitted by John Olson on 12/13/2007 - 05:06 pm.

    Ummm….I believe the article has to do with the governor running again for a possible third term. The context of my comments are intended to deal only with that.

    Who knows what will happen at the national level? State-level politics are a very different animal from national politics.

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