Wednesday, April 15, 2009

New York Times: G.O.P. Leader Wants to Be More Than Opposition

Published: April 15, 2009

ST. PAUL — Ask Tim Pawlenty, the Republican governor of Minnesota, to describe the road that will bring his party back to power, and he offers a quick response.

“Some of it will be the inevitable pendulum swinging back,” he said. “The Democrats, being in full control of the White House and Congress, will inevitably overplay their hands. It is the predictable thing that happens when you have total power. They will go too far, and there will be an inevitable reaction to that.”

With that, Mr. Pawlenty settled back in a chair in his office here the other afternoon, realizing the problem with a strategy that is ultimately only reactive: In order for the Republicans to succeed, the Democrats will have to fail. “Feeding off what they do wrong is not a strategy,” he said. “We may get some tailwind from that, but it can’t be the central tenet of our strategy.”

At a time when Republicans are struggling to find new leaders — and to lay out a case against a popular president with big ambitions — Mr. Pawlenty’s ruminations reflect the dimensions of his party’s challenge.

At 48, Mr. Pawlenty, who has never served in Washington, is a potential new face for the national Republican Party. He is at the center of what the party’s leaders see as a critical debate: how to recover when the party is viewed so unfavorably by much of the public. Mr. Pawlenty is the two-term Republican governor of a swing state; he was on the short list of possible running mates for Senator John McCain of Arizona last year; he is frequently mentioned as a potential presidential candidate in 2012.

Mr. Pawlenty said that he is far from making a decision about whether to run for president, or for that matter, re-election next year as governor. But it was clear in the course of the conversation that he is thinking about ways to take on the Democratic Party in general and Mr. Obama in particular.

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