The Daily Telegraph (out of the United Kingdom) released a list of America's top conservatives. Pawlenty is #10 on the list (ahead of Mitt Romney and George W. Bush). Former Vice-President Dick Cheney is #1 on the list, conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh is #2. The only active politician (who is currently holding office) ahead of Pawlenty is Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan.
Here's what the newspaper wrote:
The runner-up for the vice-presidential slot on the 2008 Republican ticket, he lost out to Sarah Palin then but is viewed by many GOP leaders as the better long-term bet. Has said he will not run for re-election when his term expires this year, meaning he will have more time to spend with his wife and two daughters, as well as the consultants he has quietly locked in for what everyone assumes will be a 2012 presidential bid. A Catholic who converted to become a Protestant evangelical, he is a favourite of Christian conservatives and also comes from a swing state and has the kind of Mid-West appeal that resonates in a national campaign. Although conservative on all the important issues, he advocates a broad church. "We loved Ronald Reagan, but he made some compromises along the way," he said in 2008. "We don't have a big enough party to be throwing people overboard."
Has visited first-voting Iowa and even contacted supporters of Mitt Romney, the other Republican viewed as a certain 2012 candidate as well as founding his own political action committee, Freedom First. Is already engaged in a carefully-planned programme of criss-crossing the country speaking at conservatives dinners and other events. An increasingly assured cable television performer, he is a frequent critic of Obama, branding him a "movement liberal" who is "projecting potential weakness" on national security.
The list is wrong, and therefore largely useless except as a promotional tool. You have to bear in mind that the Telegraph bills this list of America's "most influential" liberals and conservatives. Here's the Telegraph's definition:
"The key to inclusion (on the list) was the term “influence” – which people most affect American politics both in terms of ideas and the enactment of policy. "
I defy anyone to tell me any Pawlenty initiative or action or statement that affected American policy or elections so profoundly that it justifies him being named the "tenth most influential conservative" in America.
It's silly to suggest that Tim Pawlenty is the tenth most influential conservative in America, without giving any explanation for why it's right to call him "influential." It would make sense to include Pawlenty on a list of "prominent Republicans." But this is supposed to be a list of the "most influential" conservatives--and Pawlenty's national name recognition is awful, his popularity even among Republicans is awful (he came in behind "no preference," "some other candidate" and several conservatives who are no longer in office in the last major poll of *Republican* voters.)
Contrast the placement of Rush Limbaugh on the same list at number two: that makes perfect sense if you are really rating the "most influential" conservatives. Limbaugh influences a national following of tens of millions and has for decades. But there's nothing comparable in Pawlenty's case or career to justify a spot in the top ten "most influential." They don't give any reasons explaining why Pawlenty is one of the ten most "influential" conservatives, they're just promoting him "as if" he is.
I say promoting him, even though it's a British newspaper. Because people in Washington read this stuff and the media recycle it uncritically (as here on Polinaut.) And if they repeat the idiocy that that Pawlenty's influence on American conservatism is somehow comparable to Glen Beck's or Rush Limbaugh's or Rupert Murdoch's -- that will eventually trickle into the minds of American audiences via repetition.
If people start to *say* that Pawlenty is exercising a "top ten" influence over American conservatism and politics, then a significant number of American dingleberries will start to repeat it--despite the fact that it's demonstrably false.
While Bill P's comments are valid if you're looking at the candidates' public persona, I do think the Telegraph is also correct, to a degree. The beltway types & party insiders seem to be somewhat excited about Gov Pawlenty as a candidate. They are motivated by the checklist the Telegraph cites:
1) midwest Repub from 'blue' state
2) popular with evangelicals & Club for Growth types
3) no known negatives
He's Mitt Romney without the Mormonism or Bain Capital. He's the candidate that comes 'out of nowhere' to rally the base. I agree with Bill that Pawlenty isn't quite what these people think he is, but voters have a history of not digging very deeply into candidates' records for confirmation of what they claim to be.
On paper, Pawlenty is exactly the candidate that the GOP needs. He's making all the right moves to get primed for 2012. And that makes him influential within conservative circles that are looking for someone who can lead them out of the wilderness.
Nice to be exchanging thoughts with bsimon again, after so long.
But no, the checklist cited by bsimon and the Telegraph does not amount to "influence," it just amounts to list of reasons why Pawlenty *might* someday become influential, *if* he realizes his dream of appearing on a Presidential ticket. There isn't anything there (or anywhere else in the world) that suggests that Pawlenty has a national following that would put him in the top ten. He doesn't have any signficant national following, a la Limbaugh or Michele Bachmann. At the time this list is being presented he is not directing or even influencing any part of the national conservative agenda.
And he never has--Pawlenty's conservative career has been a "follower of conservative trends", not as a"leader of conservatives." He's spent his career trying to "catch up with" trends created by the truly influential conservatives in order to maintain his relevance and career.
Look at the Telegraph's own definition of what constitutes "influence" again. ("The key to inclusion (on the list) was the term “influence” – which people most affect American politics both in terms of ideas and the enactment of policy. ")
Pawlenty really doesn't belong on such a list at all, not at present. Bsimon's restatement of the reasons why the right might be interested in Pawlenty as a presidential candidate amounts to reason why Pawlenty "might" "possibly" "some day" affect American politics in terms of ideas and enactment of policy, "if" he is elected to national office--but at present it's silly to argue that he is the tenth most influential conservative in the United States. He isn't a more influential conservative than Rupert Murdoch or even Ann Coulter; it's obviously silly promotional blather to pretend that he is at the present writing.
And the Telegraph list really does contain a lot of promotional blather, in many of the cases cited--just the triumph of media blather over compilation of a "real" list of "truly" influential conservatives.
For example, they rank actor Jon Voight at "60th" most influential conservative and Dr. James Dobson of Focus on the Family and the Family Research Council at "75th" most influential. Dobson's organizations can get candidates elected to Congress in districts anywhere in the country where evangelical conservatives are key to the demographic, Dobson can stop GOP presidential candidacies cold, Dobson has national broadcasting media--and these guys rate spokesman Jon Voight as more influential? They've got their heads in their a***s if they really believe that.
These guys didn't bother to do the research needed to make this a serious attempt at naming the powerful. The authors didn't even get the spelling of Michele Bachmann's name right.
It's sloppy and stupid, but the lists will draw the attention of American media and Washington lobbyists and their clients--and those are its true purposes. As far as being an accurate tool for informing the public about who the real powers in American conservatism are: it's a pretty half-a**ed and even deceptive piece of work.
I would love to see a real list of the most influential conservatives and liberals, compiled by serious characters who've done their homework and are willing to print the truth. Some of the names on the Telegraph list do deserve inclusion on a list of the 100 most powerful, but the shabby inclusion of and silly hype about people who clearly have little comparative influence make the list downright deceptive.
Mike Huckebee, David Brooks both top 25?
And John Bolton only at 32?