The knock on former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty as a Republican presidential candidate is that he’s as exciting as drying paint.
After his announcement speech in Iowa Monday, the CW may need to be updated.
Pawlenty called for phasing-out federal ethanol subsidies, a death-wish kind of proposal in Iowa, the nation’s biggest producer of corn, the main raw material for the fuel.
He said he would head to Florida – one of the oldest states in the nation – later this week to say that Medicare and Social Security must be restructured to survive, and then plans to attack government largesse in Washington and to travel to New York to tell the financial industry it should not expect any “too big to fail” government bailouts in a Pawlenty presidency.
Among the changes he said he'll propose: "means testing" Social Security benefits, so wealthier seniors get less and the needier get more.
“Conventional wisdom says you can’t talk about ethanol in Iowa or Social Security in Florida or financial reform on Wall Street,” Pawlenty said, speaking at the Iowa Historical Center in Des Moines. “But someone has to say it. Someone has to finally stand up and level with the American people. Someone has to lead.”
So Pawlenty is positioning himself as the truth-teller in the race, and betting that Republican primary voters will give him credit for being honest with them when the nation is carrying a $14.3 trillion debt and must cut back. It’s a bold tack to take, and an attempt to follow in the shoes of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Wisconsin Gov. Paul Ryan and Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels – all Republican chief executives who have won renown for confronting budgetary sacred cows.
Pawlenty will have to hope that the country’s tolerance for tough medicine from politicians is better than it was in 1984, when fellow Minnesotan Walter Mondale accepted the Democratic nomination for president with a promise to raise taxes to balance the budget.
Mondale lost 49 states to President Ronald Reagan. (He carried Minnesota and the District of Columbia.)