Originally posted at AMERICAblog Elections: The Right’s Field.
In today’s New York Times, reporter Trip Gabriel goes after the heart of Tim Pawlenty’s argument for why he should be the Republican Party’s presidential nominee, namely his sound record of fiscal accomplishments during his two terms as Governor of Minnesota. As the Gabriel piece shows, though, Pawlenty’s alleged successes were built on a house of cards that is now dramatically and painfully falling apart as the state continues to endure a government shutdown due to the poor fiscal state Pawlenty left his state in.
Minnesota’s bond rating was downgraded last week by the national firm Fitch Ratings, which cited the current shutdown as well as “nonrecurring balancing tools” in earlier years that have left the state on shaky financial ground.
“That’s the classic definition of how you kick the can into the future,” said Arne Carlson, a former Republican governor of Minnesota who is a critic of Mr. Pawlenty’s fiscal management. “He basically reduced the weight in Pocket A and increased the weight in Pocket B, and said, ‘Look at what a great job I did.’ This was all sleight of hand.”
Obviously this both undercuts Pawlenty’s case for why he’s better than his GOP opponents and leaves him with zero ground to stand on to lob criticisms against President Obama.
Gabriel’s piece also looks at the soaring real estate taxes under Pawlenty (up over 38%) and his 2009 record of signing every single spending bill sent to him by the Democratic controlled state legislature, while vetoing all the pay-for bills. To put it differently, Pawlenty took out the state’s credit card and ran amok, but stopped making his monthly payments. Again, these are facts which undercut him both in as a primary candidate and in the general election.
There have been numerous stories in the press about Pawlenty being a totally different person as the one who served as governor, in terms of his demeanor and the ideological slant he’s now showing. This is a different sort of piece in that it actually goes at Pawlenty’s record, the record he is now trying to run on, in a straightforward way. It’s devastating, but it’s not a hit piece. It’s an honest look at what Pawlenty did while Governor in the context of the current government shutdown that is taking place largely because of his refusal to pay for spending while he was in charge. As long as the Minnesota government is shut down and people there are hurting as a result, expect more pieces busting Pawlenty’s spin on his record as a fiscal administrator of his state.