Tales from the Trail

Maybe it’s better not to get that big endorsement

One staple of the U.S. political scene is the quest for endorsements, and Republican front-runner Mitt Romney seems to be leading in the race for support from the GOP establishment.

He picked up the support of Arizona Senator John McCain, who was the 2008 Republican presidential nominee, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley and Tim Pawlenty, the former governor of Minnesota, who also was a member of the U.S. presidential field until August.

He may not be part of the party “establishment,” but Romney even got the backing of a high-profile party figure — albeit one who declared himself an independent in December — reality television star and real estate mogul Donald Trump, who called the former Massachusetts governor “tough, sharp and smart.”

But does such support really help?

“At best, so far that’s gotten him mixed results,” Republican strategist Keith Appell said, when asked about Romney’s support by party leaders. “Nikki Haley didn’t help in South Carolina. Tim Pawlenty did not help him in Minnesota.”

Prominent supporters can act as useful surrogates. Backers might pay to attend a fundraiser headlined by a well-known supporter, and voters might turn out to hear one speak.

How did Tim Pawlenty spend Iowa caucus day?

Ah, Tim Pawlenty.

The onetime Minnesota governor seemed for a little while like a promising candidate for the Republican presidential nomination. And then came the deadly Iowa straw poll last August, a contest whose meaninglessness has been confirmed by the fact that Michelle Bachmann won it, only to come in basically last–in her home state!–yesterday when the votes actually mattered (as much as they ever do in Iowa).

It’s safe to say that, while CNN sought the wisdom of departed candidate Herman Cain, and Fox the wisdom of not-quite-candidate Sarah Palin, T-Paw was not exactly overexposed on TV during the voting and counting.

So what exactly did Tim Pawlenty do yesterday? Reuters Opinion senior editor Chadwick Matlin has imagined the day, in this piece for nymag.com.

Republicans warm up in Iowa debate

Things got a little heated between Michele Bachmann and Tim Pawlenty during the Republican debate in Ames, Iowa.

Early on in the two-hour debate, the former Minnesota governor tried to knock the Minnesota congresswoman down a peg, saying her record of accomplishment and results “is nonexistent.”

Bachmann took aim at his record as governor, blasting his support for a cap and trade environmental plan and individual mandates in healthcare. “That sounds more like Barack Obama if you ask me,” she said.

Pawlenty defends blandness with race card joke

The race card? No, Governor, he just means you’re boring.

Tim Pawlenty, the former Minnesota governor running for the Republican nomination to unseat Democrat Barack Obama, the country’s first black president, brought up race on Sunday when asked if he was too boring to win.

“The knock on you is .. that you’re too nice, too bland, and Republicans want somebody who can take the fight to Barack Obama,” “Fox News Sunday” interviewer Chris Wallace said.

Wallace mentioned conservative Fox News pundit Bill O’Reilly’s comment last week that “Haagen Dazs could put his picture on vanilla.”

Washington Extra – T-Paw power

Right off the starting line, Republican Tim Pawlenty is fashioning himself as the Chevy of presidential candidates. “We will not be the money champion in the race to start with. My friend, Mitt Romney, will be the front-runner in that regard,” he told NBC’s Today show. His nomination bid, he added, “may not be the BMW or the Mercedes campaign.”

Sounds like T-Paw is calling Mitt a Mercedes. But what Pawlenty isn’t saying is that he is running the Cadillac of campaigns in Iowa. The former Minnesota governor has put more troops on the ground in that early voting state than any of the other candidates combined, according to the Iowa Republican website.

A political scientist in his native Minnesota called it a big and costly operation, “a Napoleonic army sort of thing.” With potent paychecks, Pawlenty has drawn in some of Iowa’s best campaign talent.

Pawlenty is in the race for Republican presidential nomination

Tim Pawlenty upstaged Tim Pawlenty  on Sunday.

The former Minnesota governor said he is in the race for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, revealing the news in a polished, campaign-ready  video posted on his website.

The surprise announcement came in a preview of the official announcement he was set to make Monday in Iowa. In the video,  he says Des Moines  is his first campaign stop. But he was already campaigning.

“We need a president who understands that our problems are deep, and has the courage to face them. President Obama does not. I do,” Pawlenty says in the video.

Who’s afraid of Mitt and T-Paw…

It turns out that Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty are the scariest pair of presidential prospects in the GOP field today, judging from a new Democratic ad and remarks by some Democratic Party hierophants.

Priorities USA Action, a political group founded by two former aides to President Barack Obama, targets Romney as a flip-flopper in a South Carolina TV ad that wields Republican Paul Ryan’s Medicare reforms like a political cudgel.

The 30-second black-and-white spot begins with Newt Gingrich’s “Meet the Press” remarks opposing what he called radical right-wing social engineering on Medicare. The ad then recounts Republican South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley’s defense of Ryan before turning finally to Romney: “Mitt Romney says he’s ‘on the same page’ as Paul Ryan … but with Mitt Romney, you have to wonder: which page is he on today?”

And the GOP favorite is…

Top establishment Republicans are getting more desperate about the GOP’s current presidential line-up all the time.  Care to guess why?

Newt Gingrich, once among the most prominent voices in the GOP, appears to be on the ropes only a week after declaring his candidacy – and even before his first official campaign trip to the early voting state of Iowa.

He has apologized to House Budget chief Paul Ryan for calling his Medicare plan “right wing social engineering” in a national interview and admitted making “a mistake.”

Down to the wire…

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan expects his fellow Republicans to wait until the “last minute” to strike a deal that averts national default by raising the $14.3 trillion limit on the U.S. debt.

Failure to reach a deal could trigger a new global financial crisis, according to analysts and Democrats including President Barack Obama. But on Monday, the day the U.S. debt reached its current statutory limit, Ryan told an Illinois AM radio station that “we’re going to negotiate this thing probably up through July, that’s how these things go.”

“That’s how these things go” could place negotiations at the very doorstep of an Aug. 2 deadline, which is when the Treasury Department believes it will exhaust its bag of tricks for staving off a financial apocalypse.

Republican wannabes edge toward GOP primary race

Don’t look now, but some of those Republican White House wannabes are finally getting ready to run for the GOP presidential nomination. But whether any of the current crop gets further than the latest deficit talks is another question.

Newt Gingrich announces his candidacy today. But don’t expect his lackluster ratings to improve automatically. That, according to Karl Rove, who says people know Gingrich already. But the thrice-married former House speaker, who got blamed for the Clinton-era government shutdown, could “earn” his way into the top tier before the Iowa Caucuses next February, Rove tells NBC’s Today show.

Gingrich would not be alone among top GOP “earners,” either.

There’s the septuagenarian Ron Paul, who’s spent years waiting for his long-held views on government to become du jour under the U.S. Capitol dome. He may announce within the week, according to The Hill.