An NBC News piece run in the aftermath of (for now) Sen. Al Franken’s announcement that he will resign seems to be serving an interesting dual purpose. The author, Jonathan Allen, looks like he’s not just reporting on the possibility that a Republican could retake the seat previously held by Republican Norm Coleman; he’s also providing ample space to friends and allies of former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty to make the case for the Carhartt-wearing jacket former presidential candidate to step back into the ring.
The unexpected opportunity could be a “total game-changer in terms of control of the Senate,” said Republican strategist Alex Conant, a Minnesota native who worked in communications roles for the Republican National Committee and former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s 2012 presidential campaign. “If,” he added, “we field a strong candidate.”
“Everybody in Minnesota on the Republican side is extremely eager to hear from Tim Pawlenty,” said Josh Holmes, a Republican strategist and former chief of staff to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and who is from Minnesota. “He would be a spectacular candidate if he would consider it.”
Allen himself goes on to opine that “For Republicans, Pawlenty is in a class by himself as a potential candidate.”
When he entered the 2012 presidential race, Pawlenty was considered one of two candidates who could plausibly take out Mitt Romney, offering Republicans a more conservative alternative to the former Massachusetts governor and author of Romneycare, the precursor to Obamacare.
Pawlenty made news in the 2012 contest for dubbing Obamacare “Obamneycare,” pointing to its origins and a major liability in Romney’s record. However, when offered the opportunity to repeat the attack on the debate stage, he declined to do so and that, combined with former Gov. Rick Perry’s entrance into the race, caused a slip in his presidential fortunes.
Many Pawlenty allies believe that was beyond unfortunate, and that Pawlenty was the candidate best-suited to taking President Obama out in what proved to be a tough election for Romney. Pawlenty is regarded in many circles as the original blue-collar conservative, a guy who rose from distinctly working class, non-WASPy roots to get himself through college, and ultimately succeed as the rare Republican who survived the 2006 Democratic wave. Pawlenty was the runner-up to become Sen. John McCain’s running mate in 2008, and many Republican operatives believe that if he had been on the ticket, McCain could have eked out a victory.
Currently, Pawlenty serves as head of the Financial Services Roundtable in Washington, D.C. That would be a focus of “Wall Street”-oriented attacks by primary challengers and Democrats, though it could also offer him a herculean fundraising base, should he choose to run.