Minnesota is no stranger to national politics, even at the highest level. Democratic Vice Presidents Hubert Humphrey and Walter Mondale were both from Minnesota, as was Eugene McCarthy, United States senator and presidential hopeful who challenged Lydon B. Johnson for the Democratic nomination for president of the United States. On the Republican side, some might remember Harold Stasson, the youngest governor in Minnesota history, who was a contender for the nomination in 1948. But this election cycle might be the biggest one so far for Minnesota presidential hopefuls, with both former Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann vying for positions on the Republican ticket in 2012.
While neither Pawlenty nor Bachmann might be considered frontrunners at this point, both are drawing attention as if they were. Pawlenty announced on March 21 that he is forming an exploratory committee to determine if he should run for president of the United States, a move that has drawn significant media coverage. And while Michelle Bachmann has not made any official announcement, she is certainly behaving like a candidate, with trips to Iowa and a stream of innuendo that certainly has her leaning in that direction.
"I know it is shocking that when a girl goes to Iowa that that speculation might come along," Bachmann has said. "But I'm here to be a part of that conversation for 2012. I certainly am a part of the conversation -- there's been no decision about a candidacy but I certainly want to be a part of that conversation, most definitely."
Despite the attention these Minnesotans have garnered, they both have major issues to overcome if they are to be successful in their quests for a nomination.
Bachmann, a self-professed leader in the Tea Party movement, is known for her flamboyant style and positions that many see as radical. In 2008, she drew attention and some scorn after an appearance on the television show "Hardball with Chris Matthews" when she called for investigations of members of the Senate to see if they were "pro-America or anti-America."
She has only ratcheted up in the months and years since with a constant stream of anti-tax, anti-government rhetoric, often comparing taxation to slavery. More recently, she's gotten into trouble for remarks that strongly indicate that she has a poor grasp of American history. However, Bachmann seems to be getting a warm reception in Iowa, and she continues to be in the media spotlight, perhaps as the nation waits to see what she will say next.
While Bachmann might have to overcome a radical reputation, Pawlenty's biggest obstacle could be his mild-mannered persona and the often-mentioned perception that he is a "boring" candidate. Pawlenty also may have made mistakes in connecting with his base when he took "green" positions during his governorship, a stance on which he now seems to be back-peddling in order to appeal to the Republican base.
Under Pawlenty, Minnesota passed a bill that required that the state would get 25 percent of its electricity from renewable energy sources by 2025. Minnesota was one of six states to sign the Midwestern Greenhouse Gas Reduction Accord, a program designed to develop a cap-and-trade program. In 2008, Pawlenty also launched the "Securing a Clean Energy Future" initiative. Perhaps most notably, he appeared in a campaign ad with former Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano (D) in which he urged Congress to progress on a plan to curb greenhouse gas emissions.
However, Pawlenty has backed way off on his green positions. In an interview with National Review, Pawlenty flip-flopped on environmental issues, calling cap-and-trade legislation a "clunker" of an idea.
Pawlenty told the National Review, "It's fair to say I've had a change of position and change of view, and the reason is it's a dumb idea."
While Palwenty may come across as boring in comparison to Bachmann's flamboyant style, in the end he likely is the better bet between the two. Bachamann's appeal may be linked to her entertainment value rather than her substance, while Pawlenty may come across as more grown-up and serious. Despite his ho-hum persona and his flip-flopping on environmental issues, in the end, voters will likely perceive that he has more substance than Bachmann -- and in a field of Republican candidates who are shaping up to be somewhat of a motley crew, Pawlenty may just be the Republican contender to keep an eye on.
- Walter Mondale
- exploratory committee
- Eugene McCarthy
- United States senator