Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Who's the Man? Okay, quiz time. Who is that witty, devilishly handsome lobbyist/political analyst and bon vivant who has been predicting for months that Governor Tim Pawlenty would not seek re-election? I guess if you drop witty, devilishly handsome, and bon vivant from the question, it gives it away. Yes, it's me. I've been predicting that. But, of course, I went to the Howard Cosell school of prognostication. I predict a ton of things and I remind everyone of when I am right, which is what I am doing right at this moment. You won't hear about the other 99 predictions.

The only thing that really surprises me here is the timing of the announcement, but I believe the timing indicates a couple of things that are going to have a pronounced effect on business in and around the Capitol for the next 19 months.

He danced around the question of "What's next?" at the press conference, but I think we are going to at least see an exploratory run for President. How does what is going to happen in the remainder of the Governor's term promote a Presidential run?

The Governor's decision to un-allot as opposed to calling a special session is likely to be extremely controversial in Minnesota, but it could make him look like a conservative Hercules nationally by promoting himself as the guy who can say "Here is how you deal with a Democratic Legislature (read: Congress). Who cares what happens in 2011? Governor Pawlenty has not only a bully pulpit, but a bully "scythe." For the next seven-plus months, he can make all kinds of executive decisions reducing spending and, in the process, re-directing priorities. And every one of those decisions is going to be accompanied by a press release. The state is going to be a Petri dish of sorts, with all types of experiments (let's hope none actually grow mold) taking place.

I'm not going to call the Governor out here. He's the Governor. He was elected. I was not. That certainly gives him a lot more latitude than I am afforded as someone on the sidelines. I firmly believe, especially after the Governor pledged to sign all the spending bills while vetoing any type of revenue increase through general taxation, that the Governor showed his hand. It was his intention to force a confrontation with the DFL-led Legislature at the end of the session and either prevail by having them knuckle under to his "bond for cash" idea of bring things to an untractable position where he would pull out the "un-allotment" card. And that's where we're at.

There are obviously political differences (think so, Sherlock?) between the Legislature and the Governor, but I view this more as a mega-political battle over a launch strategy for the Governor than a battle over policy per se. Everyone watching closely knew that the Legislature and the Governor were on a collision course. Mix in some personal animosity and political ambitions, and "soup's on."

Another thing to remember is that a poll was released late in the session showing (at least on that particular set of days) that most Minnesotans did not want Governor Pawlenty to seek a third term. The best way to kill Presidential aspirations is to lose your previous race.

In summation, no surprise here for me. My advice to all comes from Bette Davis' line in the character of Margo Channing in All About Eve, "Fasten your seatbelts, it's going to be a bumpy night."

Some things to look for in the days/weeks/months ahead.

  • The Franken/Coleman race will be over when the Governor says it's over, regardless of how the Supreme Court rules. As in the case of the un-allotment process, this may be unpopular in Minnesota, but I expect the Governor to try and earn some points playing "Horatio at the bridge."
  • Lots of new program ideas, including some in education, that streamline the system and don't cost (and purport to save) money.
  • About 300 people putting together exploratory efforts for a possible run for Governor (Okay, I jest and exaggerate. It will probably cap out at 100.
  • Look for the Governor on all types of national media, although I doubt he will host the next MTV Movie Awards or do a guest shot on "The Hills."
Here are the media links for the Governor's press conference:

MPR: http://minnesota.publicradio.org/display/web/2009/06/02/pawlenty_announcement

StarTribune: http://www.startribune.com/politics/state/46726117.html?elr=KArksLckD8EQDUoaEyqyP4O:DW3ckUiD3aPc:_Yyc:aU1yDEmP:QMDCinchO7DU

Pioneer Press: http://www.twincities.com/ci_12501848?nclick_check=1