Monday, January 23, 2006

Pawlenty profile piece

I'm sure most of you saw the Gov. Pawlenty profile piece in yesterday's Star Tribune.

This just goes to show how much Gov. Pawlenty is the average Minnesotan. This is the kind of press Hatch, Lourey and Kelley could never earn and the kind Doran could never buy.

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"In very broad terms the message is going to be that we inherited a crisis that we had to resolve and did," he said, referring to the state's budget deficit of recent years. "And now we need to focus on positioning Minnesota to compete and thrive in the economy of the future. We don't want to go backwards."

But the governor's critics contend that it is sometimes hard to know which way he is going. Some accuse him of spinning out proposals that he does not follow through on and sending mixed signals on other issues.

Is Pawlenty beginning the last year of his first term determined to be Minnesota's most conservative Republican governor since the New Deal? Or is he is likely to continue drifting to the political center and defying the conservative creed on selected issues?

Will he focus on achieving a few signature accomplishments this year? Or keep announcing scores of initiatives?

Larry Jacobs, a University of Minnesota political science professor, said Pawlenty appears to be showing more pragmatism as he begins his make-or-break year.

"He really isn't one of the government haters," Jacobs said. "He's an example of the next-generation Republican who knows that the conservative ride on ideology is kind of hitting a wall." (Source: Star Tribune, Jan. 22, 2005)

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The pictures to this article show Minnesotans the true nature of Gov. Pawlenty. He's the kid down the street from when you were growing up, the one your mother said was such a "nice boy."

The question and answer period shows us his Gov. Pawlenty isn't afraid to joke around, but and also can address his own concerns about how he's doing as governor.

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Q. What do you say to the criticism that you are trying to do too many things at once, that follow-through is sometimes weak, that you are too restless, that you have too many plates spinning, that you need to focus on fewer things and stay on message?

A. I think it's a fair criticism. I myself have heard those concerns. I have absorbed them and reflected on them. It's both good and bad. It's fair critique but the world is complex. It would be an underutilization of the office to say that we could only do one or two things. The demands of Minnesota, in terms of education reform, health-care reform, transportation issues, government reform, are such that you can't do one thing every other year and say that's a full utilization of the office. I recognize you can't have a wish list so long that it lacks focus . At the same time I do have a lot of energy, I have some skills and abilities to offer, and I can handle more than one issue at a time. The process and the public often can't track or focus on more than a few big issues a year, so the question is to draw a balance and we try to pick two to five issues a session.

Q. What do you say to the observation that you are one of the least "handled" and controlled governors in memory but that it means you do everything yourself, your own legislative strategy, your own policy proposals, your own public relations, your own political strategy. And there's nobody strong enough to talk you out of impulsive or bad ideas.

A. I don't think that's accurate. If you look at the team I've assembled it wouldn't be correct to say (former chief-of-staff) Charlie Weaver was a weak-kneed ninny. (Former chief-of-staff) Dan McElroy was very smart and very strong. (Current chief-of-staff) David Gaither, whom people don't know as well, is, on a scale of 1 to 10 for alpha dogs, a 9.5. (Communications Director Brian McClung) is extroverted and strong and egotistical as the come. (Laughter. McClung was present) We have a strong team with skilled people. But I think the thing you may be driving is that there is no question that sometimes I drop back and throw a long ball. I do that purposely with my eyes open. I know it is fraught with risk. I also know that some of these things have little chance in the Legislature. But I also know that I will have this position for a relatively short period of time and I don't want to hunkered down, pulling punches, and wishing in the future as I look back that I had the courage or the fortitude to throw things out there. Some things we present because we want to get the public focused on the issues. Not everything is a legislative issue. Part of the use of the bully pulpit is to get things out there and moving forward on them. Do I take risks and act a little quirky at times. Yes. And I do it intentionally. (Source: Star Tribune, Jan. 22, 2006)

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