Pawlenty: I Heart The Minnesota Shutdown

Tim Pawlenty, who retired as governor of Minnesota and almost immediately moved towards a national campaign for president, is now back in the thick of politics back home — with Pawlenty vocally supporting state Republican legislators in a government shutdown fight against Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton.

Pawlenty, who is struggling to break out in the presidential field, has been cheering on the Republicans in his home state – and likening them to Republicans in Washington who are holding out on the debt ceiling. On Thursday, during an Iowa/Facebook Townhall event, he boasted in remarks that were e-mailed out on his campaign press-list:

“In Minnesota now, they’re having a big fight about the next budget. And that one’s projecting a $5 billion deficit. There’s going to be a deficit. But you know what? That assumes a 20% increase in spending, which is ridiculous. It is outrageous. I would have never allowed that as governor. I applaud the Republican legislature in Minnesota for standing strong and standing firm and saying we’re not going to raise taxes in Minnesota. We don’t have a state in Minnesota that’s over-taxed, we have a state that has spent too much, before I became governor, and we’ve got to get it back in balance.

“I share that with you because it’s similar to the challenges seen in Washington D.C. going on with this debt ceiling limit issue. They’ve got the President and Republicans negotiating, and I urge our Republicans in Washington D.C. to stand strong. The only way you get real change in Washington D.C. is to draw lines in the sand. And if you notice, most politicians are like running water downhill. They want least resistance. So it’s helpful, in having them do bold and courageous things, to put up some points of resistance. And there is a moment here now, it’s not an easy moment, but it’s a dramatic and it’s an important moment, for our conservatives in Washington to stand tall and stand strong and stand courageously, and say the answer to America’s future is not to pile more debt on our children and our grandchildren. The answer is to get our financial house in order and to live within our means, just like families have to do, just like businesses have to do, and just what we’d expect in our personal lives.”

When Pawlenty left office, after a term of jousting with a Democratic-majority legislature, Minnesotans then performed the notable act of electing Democrat Mark Dayton to succeed Pawlenty — with a Republican-majority legislature, in a mirror image of what came before. This new bunch then had to deal with a problem — an inherited projected deficit of $5 billion. Dayton has proposed a mix of spending cuts and tax increases — which has been backed up by public polling — but state Republicans have held firm against any tax increases at all, wanting to go entirely with spending cuts, leading to the new government shutdown.

Pawlenty’s new ad boasts of his performance in a past state government shutdown in 2005. In the run-up to the new shutdown, he even looked back on the 2005 experience and wished he had held out longer against Democratic legislators: “I think it was nine days (of government shutdown) at that time, and I think we could have gotten a better deal if we had allowed that to continue for a while.”

TPM asked Pawlenty spokesman Alex Conant for some clarification: Is Pawlenty intervening politically or actively participating in any way in the shutdown, or is it more that he is responding to his own name being used in the debate?

“He’s speaking out in support of Republicans in the legislature,” said Conant.

On Tuesday, Democratic former Vice President Walter Mondale and Republican former Gov. Arne Carlson announced the formation of a new bipartisan group, which will seek to mediate a compromise.

Then, during an interview with Politico, Mondale slammed Pawlenty as being responsible for the budget problems. “He left basically the mess that we see — the huge deficits,” Mondale said. “He shifted these issues into the future so that he wouldn’t be around.”

Later that day, Pawlenty released this statement, slamming Mondale, Carlson, the Minnesota Dems, and President Obama, all at once:

“Walter Mondale ran for president against Ronald Reagan on a platform that called for higher taxes. Arne Carlson supported John Kerry, Barack Obama and other Democrats. It should surprise no one that they both support more spending and higher taxes in Minnesota. We did it the right way for the last eight years, with dramatically lower spending and tax cuts. I commend the Republicans in the Legislature for sticking to their guns, even when politicians of the past call for old-fashioned high tax and spend solutions.

“The last budget on my watch ended last week with a positive balance. The projected deficit for the upcoming two years is based on large projected spending increases, which I never would have allowed as governor. Minnesota government is shutdown because of Democrats’ insistence on Obama-esque solutions to increase spending and raise taxes.”

It is indeed true that Walter Mondale said during the 1984 presidential election that he would raise taxes. (Mondale actually said that both he and Reagan would do so, only he was being honest about it — and in fact, Reagan raised taxes during the second term.)

It is also true that Arne Carlson has endorsed the Democratic nominees in the last two presidential elections. In fact, the state GOP has banned him from taking part in party functions for two years, after he endorsed the centrist Independence Party candidate Tom Horner for governor in 2010.

On the other hand, it does seem notable that Pawlenty, a candidate for president in the 2012 election cycle, is now in a political scuffle with Walter Mondale, who ran for president all the way back in 1984 and whose name was last on a ballot in the 2002 Senate race (when he was the unsuccessful last-minute, substitute nominee after the death of Sen. Paul Wellstone), and with Arne Carlson, who left office in 1998.