In an interview just published in Esquire, Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R-MN) presents himself as a true conservative -- but not too mean-spirited, either.
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Pawlenty points to his success as a conservative in a liberal state. "But on the broader issue of Minnesota: This is also the state of Eugene McCarthy, Hubert Humphrey, Walter Mondale, Paul Wellstone, and now Senator Al Franken. Minnesota has evolved and ebbed and flowed a little bit in its politics, but it is fair to say that, with few exceptions, it's been one of the more liberal states in the country," said Pawlenty. "It's the history, the tradition, the culture here. I'm someone who has confronted that in a way that for some is refreshing and for some is quite dramatic, in a way that is viewed as quite a departure from the normal trajectory here. Most of the Republicans who have succeeded here have been mostly very moderate, Democrat lite. I'm somewhat an exception to that. I'm more of a mainstream conservative governing in a liberal state."
However, he did back away from some key GOP attack points against President Obama. While strenuously disagreeing with Obama's policies, he did not agree with calling Obama a socialist. And interestingly, he also said he would have supported the Medicare prescription drug benefit passed by President George W. Bush in 2003 -- one of the largest expansions of government involvement in social welfare since the Great Society.