Pawlenty heads to East Coast for business, politicsby Mark Zdechlik, Minnesota Public Radio
Manchester, N.H. — Gov. Tim Palwenty will be on the East Coast mixing official business with politics.
Pawlenty will attend National Governor's Association meetings in Boston, and Saturday he will be back in the key presidential state of New Hampshire for a fundraiser and to speak at a county Republican picnic.
Saturday's stops in Dover and Dublin will mark Pawlenty's third trip to New Hampshire since he announced last summer he would not seek another term as Minnesota's governor.
Pawlenty's visits have fueled speculation he's planning to run for president in 2012 because New Hampshire holds the nation's first presidential primary. Pawlenty says he hasn't made a decision but most political observers are convinced he's already running.
Southern New Hampshire University Political Science Professor Dean Spiliotes says if Pawlenty decides to run he seems to be doing all of the right things in New Hampshire and that his early attention to the state will pay off.
"There is always good coverage of major presidential players in the state, so every time he comes to visit particularly early on when there aren't six or seven people traipsing around the state he'll get a lot of coverage," Spiliotes said. "So, I think maximizing that to the extent he can I think would be helpful to him."
Spiliotes says right now it looks like the New Hampshire Republican primary is Mitt Romney's to lose. The former Massachusetts governor came in a close second to John McCain in 2008. Like Pawlenty, Romney hasn't formally announced a presidential campaign, but he too is acting like a candidate.
Political consultant Mike Dennehy of Concord, N.H. agrees Romney is the front-runner in the state. Dennehy was one of McCain's closest advisers and is widely credited for delivering New Hampshire to McCain in 2000 and again in 2008.
Pawlenty twice campaigned for McCain in the Granite State and was on the short list to be McCain's running mate in 2008. But Dennehy says that does not mean McCain supporters will necessarily fall in behind Pawlenty.
"I don't see it doing anything right now. I don't think there are many people making a decision," Dennehy said. "I think people are just kicking the tire, especially given that there's only Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty to kick right now. So no, I just don't see that happening."
Both Dennehy and Spiliotes expect once this fall's midterm elections are over, the field of likely GOP presidential candidates will quickly expand and that some of likely candidates will formally launch exploratory committees within the next several months.
Dennehy and other political insiders say Pawlenty's working class background and guy-next-door way of talking to people position him well to attract support in New Hampshire.
But Dennehy says being likable and right on the big Republican issues will not be enough for Pawlenty.
He says Pawlenty needs to start laying out an agenda and start addressing areas where he might be considered vulnerable.
Dennehy says a good way for Pawlenty to get some serious attention would be to start taking sides in Republican primary battles around the country and in New Hampshire.
"It's not an easy thing to do, but it's the best way to build an organization. The best way to build an organization and to get yourself known is to take risks, side with candidates in primaries," Dennehy said. "It's not an easy thing to do, taking those risks, but this isn't a business that you can run a safe campaign and win."
Pawlenty recently told Minnesota reporters he was purposely staying out of hotly contested Republican primaries.
"My view has mostly been if a state has a transparent and open process for selecting their candidates, we should let the process work, and they don't need people from outside the state telling them what to do," he said.
Pawlenty has made only a few exceptions to that position. Among them, his endorsement of John McCain's 2010 Arizona Senate re-election campaign.
Later this month Pawlenty will be in Iowa raising money for Republicans.
- Morning Edition, 07/09/2010, 6:20 a.m.