Debra J. Saunders

Debra J. Saunders
Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty is the first casualty of the Ames, Iowa, straw poll. After he came in third – behind firebrand Reps. Michele Bachmann and Ron Paul – he pulled out of the 2012 GOP presidential primary.

In politics, you find little sympathy for losers. Insiders point to Pawlenty’s failure in a June CNN debate to attack former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney for enacting a state universal health care plan. Pawlenty had dubbed the term “Obamneycare” to link Romney’s health care law to Obama’s. If Mr. “Minnesota Nice” could not go after Romney when the moment was ripe, politicos asked, perhaps he lacked the fire to go after President Obama as well.

But I think T-Paw’s biggest missed opportunity in a GOP primary debate came Thursday. Pawlenty tried to establish straight-talk credentials by opposing ethanol subsidies in corn-dog country. He also argued that his experience of governing a blue state with a Democratic legislature established that he could win on policy initiatives while working across the aisle.

When Fox News moderator Bret Baier asked all eight candidates to raise their hands if they would walk away from a deficit-reduction deal with a ratio of $10 in spending cuts to every $1 in tax increases, they all raised their hands. You would expect that response from purity candidates like Bachmann, Paul or businessman Herman Cain. But Pawlenty raised his hand. Ditto Jon Huntsman, the former Utah governor who had boasted that he was the only GOP candidate who supported the bipartisan debt deal signed by the president and supported by House Speaker John Boehner.

Here Pawlenty had a chance to distinguish himself as the only pragmatist in the race – the only Republican who wouldn’t walk away from a killer deal – but he did not seize the moment.

To read entire story, click here.