From NBC's Domenico Montanaro
Dan Balz, in his latest analysis piece, makes a point we've been thinking about here: the Pawlenty-Romney comparison:
Still, there is something Romneyesque in all this. Four years ago, Romney lurched to the right in preparation for his presidential candidacy. He did it on social issues, where his prior support for abortion and gay rights left him vulnerable on his right flank. Pawlenty has a consistent record of opposition to abortion and gay marriage. In his case, he appears to be catering to the conservative, populist anger on the right, which is challenging the party establishment and attacking Obama in sometimes extreme language.
The real risk for Pawlenty, as Romney learned in his unsuccessful 2008 campaign, is losing his true voice and his authenticity. Romney spent so much time trying to reposition himself and picking narrow tactical fights with his rivals that the qualities that might have made him a more attractive candidate were lost in the smoke. But once a candidate starts down that road, it can be hard to pull back.
It is an interesting point. Authenticity was Romney's biggest problem in 2008. There was no escaping his RECENT more liberal record and comments as governor of Massachusetts, a state with ZERO Republican members of Congress.
Pawlenty has a similar problem -- a Republican governor hailing from a blue state needing to tack to the right to win over conservatives. As Balz points out, Pawlenty's never been a red-meat guy, and his tone nowadays is A LOT different than right after the election. In addition to the missteps Balz outlines -- not the least of which was intimating that Olympia Snowe didn't belong in the party -- he was late to the game in NY-23, first saying he wasn't following what was happening there, then endorsing the Conservative Party candidate only after Sarah Palin did.
Next week, Pawlenty speaks again before the Republican Governors Association's annual conference in Austin, Texas. Last year, at the RGA, he delivered some tough medicine to his party and seemed to be trying to draw a distinction between himself and Palin.
Now, he's following her.
*** UPDATE *** A Pawlenty adviser responds in an e-mail to First Read: "Some people may assume that Governor Pawlenty's a moderate since he hails from such a liberal-leaning state, but in fact his record is consistently conservative. Since he ran as a conservative and governered as a conservative, it should be no surprise that he continues to lead as a conservative now. He feels strongly that President Obama and Congressional Democrats are leading the country in the wrong direction on health care and deficit spending, and he's going to say so."
*** UPDATE 2 *** The Pawlenty adviser disagrees that Pawlenty's "rhetoric is different. Governor Pawlenty's obviously critical of Obama -- but that's more a reflection of Obama now governing as a movement liberal after running as a post-partisan pragmatist.
"'Our party is not big enough to be throwing people out' is a message he repeats everywhere he goes, including his 'Pretzels & Pints' event in DC, and his recent speech to Western CPAC. Most recently, Pawlenty's speech in Iowa included a strong call-to-action to attract more people into the Republican Party by doing a better job of communicationg our ideas, and relating our principles to the problems facing average folks."