Pawlenty Says Palin Can Wait To Jump Into 2012 Race

Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) today said that former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin’s popularity and stature means she can bide her time before making a decision whether to seek a White House bid against President Obama.

“Given her status, she could afford to wait, I think, a lot longer than most other candidates because she has kind of a built in level of familiarity and awareness and support that might not be the same for others. So she could probably wait a lot longer to make any potential decision,” Pawlenty told reporters at a breakfast this morning hosted by the Christian Science Monitor.Asked about whether he would run in the fact of a potential Palin candidacy, Pawlenty said his own decision “won’t be dependent on what other people do or don’t do.”

Pawlenty promised that he won’t make up his mind about a presidential run until early January, but it’s clear he’s establishing himself as a national figure in case he does choose a 2012 bid. Pawlenty just got back from a trip to Iraq and Afghanistan, saying that withdrawal deadlines from Afghanistan will have “corrosive effects” and are “misguided.”

Pawlenty several times pointedly noted that the “stereotype” of the Republican party oftentimes is a white male “CEO,” perhaps a veiled reference to likely 2012 candidate Mitt Romney.

He cited several candidates including Nikki Haley in South Carolina and Susana Martinez in New Mexico to say that there are emerging leaders who are changing the public face of the party.

“There are going to be six or 8 next generation folks who are not middle-aged white-guy CEOs,” he said. “It’s going to be a new day, a new era in terms of the face and voice and tone of the Republican party and I think that’s really good.”

He told his own story of being the first in his family to go to college and growing up in a meat packing town.

Pawlenty said swing voters who decide a presidential race are trying to find a candidate who can “connect to you on a heart and a gut level.”

He added that Republican candidates are mostly going to have similar conservative ideas for the nation and to appeal to those swing voters worried their family and about getting by financially, who may think the GOP is “country club elitists,” “it helps to have a messenger that has walked in their shoes in their bit because then you can at least open the door to a discussion and get you some credibility.”

Pawlenty said the tea party is a “positive force for the conservative movement” which has injected new energy into the Republican party, comparing the insurgent feel of the movement to how Ronald Reagan was initially viewed by the GOP.

“I don’t get overly worried about this raw energy that you see emerging at the grassroots level, I think it’s helpful,” he said. “They rattle the cage a little bit and that brings a renewed sense of accountability.”

Pawlenty added a few minutes later that, of course, there are tea partiers who say “unwise” things but that is true of any group.

Asked after the breakfast by TPM about former Sen. Norm Coleman’s potential candidacy for the RNC chairmanship next year, Pawlenty said that Coleman (R-MN) would be a good choice. “He’d be terrific at it he’s a gifted leader he’s a dynamic, positive, optimistic leader,” he told TPM.

He also said he favors extending the Bush tax cuts but that government must find a way to pay for them. “It has to be paid for,” he said, but he didn’t identify how that would be possible. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) recently told TPM that most Republicans believe that tax cuts, in fact, don’t have to be paid for.