Chris Cillizza, who writes The Fix political blog for the Washington Post today handicapped the characteristics of those who would be king, injecting an assertion about Minnesota voters designed to impress those outside of flyover country.
Pawlenty, as we have written before, is the leading populist in the party at the moment. (Apologies to Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels but his pledge not to run in 2012 limits his reach within the GOP.) Pawlenty’s personal story — first in his family to go to college, a truck driver father etc. — is at the heart of his appeal in Minnesota, a state not particularly inclined to support Republicans in statewide elections.
How to measure that? Let’s look at the statewide races.
Governor – Minnesota hasn’t been particularly inclined to support Democrats in the race for governor. It’s elected one — Rudy Perpich — in the last 28 years. There have only been 9 Democrat governors in the state’s history, and that’s counting Perpich twice. There have been 26 Republican governors. So getting elected governor of Minnesota as a Republican isn’t such a big deal.
Senator – Norm Coleman was the sitting Republican in the Senate before he lost last year’s election to Al Franken. Out of three million votes cast, only a handful separates the two. Suggesting the state isn’t inclined to support Republicans for the seat is a tough sell, especially when the seat has been held by two Republicans since the 1978, and only one Democrat. Similarly, the seat held by Amy Klobuchar has been split by Republicans and Democrats since 1977 (two apiece).
Secretary of State – Since 1858, there have been only five Democrat secretaries of state, although DFLer Joan Growe sailed through every election to serve from 1975 to 1999.
Attorney General – A Republican hasn’t been elected attorney general in Minnesota since 1966. Even when Republicans were sweeping to victory in most statewide offices in 2002, DFLer Mike Hatch was the only one to buck the trend.
Cillizza may be hanging his hat on presidential contests in the state, but that’s a thin peg in evaluating Pawlenty’s history as a state candidate.