Home/Daniel Larison/The Extraordinarily Weak Case for Making Pawlenty the VP Nominee

The Extraordinarily Weak Case for Making Pawlenty the VP Nominee

If Marco Rubio has been the activist favorite for the VP slot, Tim Pawlenty keeps getting attention as a possible running mate for no apparent reason. Jill Lawrence lays out the underwhelming case for T-Paw:

The former Minnesota governor also brings to the table an interesting and politically useful life story. He was the youngest of five kids, he was the first in his family to go to college, his father was a truck driver, and his mother died when he was 16. He has said the GOP can’t be the party of “middle-aged white-guy CEOs” — in other words, it can’t be a party of all guys like Romney — and promotes himself as a person who can comfortably drink a Miller High Life at a VFW hall with someone wearing a Carhartt jacket.

The case for Pawlenty centers on his biography and his utility as a symbolic link to working-class voters whose interests and concerns aren’t addressed by anything Pawlenty or Romney have campaigned on so far. There’s nothing quite like substance-free pseudo-populism and working-class tokenism to make for a compelling VP selection. According to Lawrence, Pawlenty’s only other distinguishing feature is that he has been a loyal Romney surrogate capable of delivering anti-Obama attack lines. Of course, the same is true of any number of other potential running mates, several of whom have better qualifications to serve as Vice President if the Republicans win. One thing can be said for Pawlenty as a running mate: there is no danger that he would outshine Romney or draw too much attention to himself.

If Pawlenty were selected, it would be the VP equivalent of choosing the “next in line” regardless of merit. Just as it was Romney’s “turn” to be the presidential nominee, perhaps it is also Pawlenty’s turn to be the VP nominee, if for no other reason than that he was passed over four years ago. If the Romney campaign’s goal is to be as unlike the McCain campaign in their decision-making as possible, choosing Pawlenty might make sense as the ultimate repudiation of the Palin selection in 2008. It would be an unimaginative and uninspiring choice, but it probably wouldn’t be a disaster. That doesn’t mean it would be a good choice, but it is one that Romney might conceivably make.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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