Pawlenty Shows Why He’s Out Of The 2012 GOP Race

Today, CNN has a poll out in which Rick Perry is trouncing Mitt Romney and the rest of the field among 2012 GOP presidential hopefuls.

Overall, the poll shows Perry maintaining a double-digit advantage over the GOP field — in line with other recent national polls. He attracts 30 percent support from GOP voters while Romney garners 18 percent. Palin comes in third with 15 percent while Paul has 12 percent. Businessman Herman Cain and Gingrich tie with 5 percent, Bachmann comes in with 4 percent, and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum round out the field with 2 percent each.

Voters make clear that they are looking for electability over ideological purity, with 75 percent saying they would rather see the party nominate someone who can defeat Barack Obama over someone who lines up with them on every issue they care about. Twenty-four percent say they would prefer a candidate who agrees with them on issues.

Perry seems to check both boxes for many voters, however. In addition to being the candidate a plurality of voters think can beat President Obama next year, 26 percent say he is the one most likely to agree with them on issues. Seventeen percent say the same of Palin, 15 percent of Romney and 14 percent of Paul.

A plurality of GOP voters (36 percent) view Perry as the strongest leader. Romney comes in second with 21 percent, while 14 percent say the same of Palin. Voters also view Perry as the most likable candidate, though by a smaller margin (25 percent to 22 percent for Palin and 21 percent for Romney).

Perry also enjoys support across the board in the GOP electorate. He leads Romney among Republican voters by a 35-17 margin and among independent voters by a 23-19 margin (Ron Paul also has 19 percent of independent support). He holds a commanding lead among conservative voters (36 percent to 16 percent for Romney and 15 percent for Palin), and leads among both Tea Party supporters (38 percent to 16 percent for Romney and 14 percent for Palin) and those who are neutral toward the grass-roots conservative movement (22 percent to 18 percent for both Romney and Palin).

The poll was done over the weekend.

The most interesting result of the poll, though, was that Romney’s biggest criticism of Perry since last week’s debate – namely that no Republican who dares criticize Social Security can get elected – didn’t fly at all with the respondents…

Forty-two percent of Republican voters say Perry has the best chance of defeating Obama next year while 26 percent say the same of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin comes in third with 7 percent saying she has the best chance of winning in 2012. Five percent say the same of Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Texas Rep. Ron Paul.

Strange, isn’t it? The whole country has been talking about Perry’s depiction of Social Security as a Ponzi scheme, a characterization he has vigorously defended throughout his campaign despite an all-out assault by the left-wing media and the Romney campaign, and yet Perry appears no worse for wear.

It’s almost like the conventional wisdom is wrong.

For his part, Perry answered the commentary class with a USA Today op-ed stating his intention to continue criticism of the structural inadequacy of the program. Unlike Romney’s breathless accusations that Perry is out to destroy the program, though, Perry’s missive seemed more moderate than advertised in terms of policy pronouncements…

The first step to fixing a problem is honestly admitting there is a problem. America’s goal must be to fix Social Security by making it more financially sound and sustainable for the long term. But Americans deserve a frank and honest discussion of the dire financial challenges facing the nearly 80-year-old program.

As I said at the Reagan Library recently, Social Security benefits for current recipients and those nearing retirement must be protected. For younger workers, we must consider reforms to make Social Security financially viable.

Perry is unelectable, though. So implies Tim Pawlenty, who endorsed Romney today. He apparently also accepted a gig as Romney’s national co-chair.

Pawlenty also said on TV that he wouldn’t consider a vice-presidential spot. He’s rumored to be mulling a run against Amy Klobuchar for the Senate from Minnesota.

Pawlenty, who attracted interest during his ill-fated presidential run from conservatives based on a solid economic plan introduced at the University of Chicago and some courageous stands – including going to Iowa and speaking against ethanol subsidies – nevertheless was one of the early endorsers of John McCain’s candidacy in 2007.

McCain was the RINO of the 2008 field. Outside of John Huntsman, one of the few candidates with less support than Pawlenty was able to muster, Romney is the RINO of the 2012 field. And yet Pawlenty endorsed him some five months before primary season begins this year.

It seems a very strange bit of political calculation given the current momentum of the Republican race.

And with Michele Bachmann’s campaign – which stole a great deal of Pawlenty’s Midwestern support and finished T-Paw off after whacking him in the Ames straw poll – currently foundering, one wonders whether Pawlenty’s Romney endorsement wouldn’t ultimately lead to Bachmann’s backing Perry should she drop out. Pawlenty and Bachmann had a rather ugly back-and-forth earlier in the race which made it clear that while both are Minnesota Republicans they’re definitely not political allies.

Pawlenty didn’t get anything out of his McCain endorsement in 2007. If anything, given the performance of McCain’s campaign in 2008, one has to see Pawlenty’s early choice to back the worst GOP candidate in modern times as a net negative. And his endorsement of Romney, at a time when the latter’s former lead in the polls has shrunk to a double-digit deficit against Perry – and growing – looks like an even worse bet. After having coined an excellent phrase in calling Romney’s Massachusetts health-insurance boondoggle Obamneycare, Pawlenty’s public performance has nosedived into what’s starting to look like a well-deserved obscurity.

We like Pawlenty. He’s good on the economy, he did well in Minnesota and he’s generally an honest-respectable politician at a time when those are in short supply. Unfortunately, though, his political tin ear continues to hurt his stature.

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