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Update: Gee, No One Informed Me About This
June 17, 2011

Pawlenty: I Should Have Gone After Romney

You can take this as you like, of course, but I never took it as the "wimp" thing. I took it as John King attempting to provoke a fight, just for ratings and to help the Democrats, and Pawlenty, surprised by that, wound up a little on the wrong foot.

My assumption is that he had planned to address this, in due time, but felt he couldn't with John King basically demanding he do so.

I saw it as head's you're beta, tails you're not alpha -- ether your decline, in which case you're beta, or your hop-to when John King tells you to, in which case you're not alpha.

Anyway, that's my spin, but in this case it's my real read. On the other hand, Pawlenty does seem to have a basic tendency to play nice, which he's going to have to train himself out of, or start setting his sites on a lesser posting, like secretary of Labor.

Still, a problem (even if King created it), because Pawlenty needs to stress these differences with Romney. He can't coast or anything. He seems to have realized this, if a little too late, and now says he "should have been more clear" and "should have made the point."

One skill a politician needs is the ability to be gracefully nasty. You need to deliver the blow. But you have to come across as almost saddened that you had to deliver it.

Past master of the gracefully nasty attack is Barack Obama, who relies on his surrogates to call people racist while he postures as post-racial, but even in delivering his attacks himself, he's fairly graceful about it. Sometimes I think the GOP is going too hog-wild in calling him out (like with Paul Ryan), but it's probably necessary to do this, to get it on the record that no, he isn't running the positive campaign he claims to be running.

Mitt Romney, especially his own surrogates, was, I think, the most hated among other GOP contenders in 2008. He usually comes across as Mr. Clean Cut and Mr. All Business while being kinda nasty. I think that's a good skill.

I remember hating Huckabee for not having this skill, or having an odd variant of it. Huckabee would make some over-the-line comments about Romney's religion ("Isn't it interesting that Mormons think Jesus ans Satans are brothers?") and then did this unconvincing "Gee I had no idea that was an attack" schtick. What bothered me more is that a lot of people seemed to think this was actually plausible and/or an effective way to do it, and I didn't think this would play in the general election at all. The comparison made was to that character on Leave it Beaver -- Eddie Haskell -- who always did wrong and then had some transparent "Gee Mrs. Cleaver I didn't know..." excuse.

My main opposition to Michelle Bachmann has been that I saw her as likely not good at this at all, and just being very obvious about it when she made attacks or served up some piping hot red meat. However, as everyone is praising her for her debate performance, it could be she's pivoted on this, and knows that what plays when she's running for head of the Tea Party won't play when running for President, and so might have modified her game accordingly.

Not sure. I have to confess, Michelle Bachmann was so not on my radar I didn't watch her very closely during that long, long debate. So I have to defer to everyone else who did, who say she was impressive.

Correction: Eddie Haskell, not Wally. Who the heck was Wally? Eh, I never really saw the show.

Rebuttal To My Take: It occurs to me the idea that T-Paw would be surprised, and unprepared, for this angle from John King is pretty thin. He would have/should have anticipated it.

Still, John King was so obvious about what he was after -- a Jerry Springer style "Oh no you di'n't!" -- who knows, maybe T-Paw felt he was being set up to lose if he went after Romney too aggressively, like John King had just snapped his fingers for the Rottweiler to feed.

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posted by Ace at 11:07 AM

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