Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Pawlenty of time until 2012

Governor Tim Pawlenty, Republican of Minnesota, has announced that he will not run for a third term in that office, next year. That changes the dynamics in the gubernatorial election, but it might affect two other elections, as well.

Pawlenty has been positioning himself to seek his party's presidential nomination in 2012. Leaving office at the beginning of 2011 will free up his time for presidential campaigning. Also, it might help him, if he avoids day-to-day involvement with difficult state budget issues. Economic growth is expected to have resumed by 2011, but economists generally expect a lukewarm recovery. Anything a governor does, under those circumstances, is subject to criticism from all sides.

Additionally, state campaign finance laws would apparently restrict his ability to raise funds for a presidential run, if he were also a gubernatorial candidate.

Several Democratic candidates (in the party that, in Minnesota, is called Democratic-Farmer-Labor) have emerged to try to succeed Pawlenty. The best-known name is that of former U.S. Senator Mark Dayton.

The other question is: who will enter the now-cleared Republican field? One name frequently mentioned (and this is how a third election might be affected) is that of another former U.S. senator, Norm Coleman. Coleman ran for governor in 1998, only to be beaten in a three-way race (which is not the same as two out of three falls) by Jesse Ventura.

Coleman's appeal of a state court's decision in favor of Al Franken, Coleman's opponent in the 2008 race for U.S. senator from Minnesota, is being considered this week by that state's supreme court. If Coleman decides to run for governor, perhaps that will lead him to concede the Senate election, and allow Pawlenty to avoid what might otherwise be an uncomfortable decision on whether to sign a certificate of election for Franken.

However, there is also speculation in the other direction, i.e., that, not having to face Minnesota voters next year, Pawlenty will feel more free to deny Franken the certificate, and allow Coleman to appeal to federal court.

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