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May 25, 2011

Old and Busted: Tim Pawlenty Is, Giggle, The "Guts" Candidate With the "X Factor"
New Hotness: No, Seriously, Tim Pawlenty Is the Guts Candidate With the X Factor

Hello, Tampa!

Hello, Florida retirees!

Are you ready to rock!?

Are you ready for... hard truth about our unsustainable entitlements programs which are going to be savaged by drastic cuts in just 8 years are so, by operation of law, unless something is changed?

A day after telling Iowans their beloved ethanol subsidies will have to go, Republican presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty used a stop in senior-heavy Florida to call for reining in Social Security and Medicare benefits for future retirees.

The former Minnesota governor, who launched his campaign Monday, talked about entitlement reform during a 30-minute Facebook town hall and in a question-and-answer session with reporters at the Biltmore hotel.

It's part of a tough-medicine tour, designed to highlight Pawlenty's willingness to tell "hard truths." He's also planning to visit Washington to call for less-generous pay and benefits for public sector employees and to New York to call for an end to Wall Street bailouts.

"We won't have Medicare or Medicaid or Social Security as we know it in the future if we don't make changes and adjustments now that can preserve these important programs," Pawlenty told the Facebook audience.

Pawlenty said Social Security's retirement age must "gradually" increase for people who are not yet in the system. He also called for ending cost-of-living increases for wealthy retirees. He said he'll release details soon and said the changes would not affect current retirees.

This meme may sound crazy, but it's my guess this will be the next media meme. (There's even some truth to it, to the extent that counts.)

Here Ben Smith and Byron York discuss T-Paw's problem as a worthy candidate being dismissed for the slightest of reasons -- he's "boring" -- while candidates with very serious problems are treated far more seriously.

As the media likes to do these "Change of Narrative" stories (as I do, as anyone does -- it's interesting), expect a mini-counter-narrative on the way.

Meanwhile, Ramesh Ponnuru maps out T-Paw's narrow, narrow path to victory.

Among the obstacles he has to overcome is obviously the "Nice" factor. I think it's insane to push a bunch of candidates whose primary attraction is that they scare the crap out of leaners and independents, but there is no doubt that's what the base is in the mood for.

Can Pawlenty appear scary enough to independents while not seeming false and contrived?

Not only is Pawlenty naturally mild-mannered, he has spent eight years pushing conservative policy statewide in blue Minnesota, where inflammatory words would not help his cause. The current conservative mood, though, rewards rhetorical combativeness. Witness the recent boomlet for Donald Trump, who had no conservative credentials whatsoever but who was a famous loudmouth.

Back in 2008, Mitt Romney got a rap for inauthenticity by shifting rightward on the issues. Pawlenty runs a risk of making himself inauthentic by changing his affect. Hell have to find a way to make himself interesting without betraying his natural persona (which may well be an asset in appealing to the middle in a general election). Is it possible to be nice and reasonable yet compelling? Well find out.

I don't know if T-Paw's current mode -- Speak Softly and Carry A Big, Big Radical Rightwing Social Engineering Agenda -- makes a lick of sense politically, but I like it.

On Medicare, T-Paw does not embrace Paul Ryan's plan. He says he'll have his own plan. He talks up parts of Ryan's plan that he likes -- reforms, premium support -- but doesn't embrace the full plan.

That doesn't bother me because as I've been saying for weeks I don't really expect anyone to actually embrace a plan that could cost them the election.

What I expect them to do is finesse it.

Is that dishonest?


It is what it is. The moment Barack Obama starts being honest about taxing the bejesus out of the middle class is the moment I start demanding perfect candor from our own candidates.

Picture from Politico. Thanks to a commenter, but I forget who.

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