Robert Novak

As co-chairman of the NGA's energy committee (with Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, Democratic responder to President Bush's State of the Union Address), Pawlenty proposed statewide goals of reduced CO2 emissions. But at a "governors only" session opening the NGA meeting last Saturday, Pawlenty encountered adamant opposition. Barbour led the way for governors from energy-producing states, including Republican Rick Perry of Texas and Democrat Steve Beshear of Kentucky. The issue of greenhouse gases was "set aside," Pawlenty told me, "because we realized there was no consensus."

McCain, who has co-sponsored a global warming bill with his friend and supporter Independent Democratic Sen. Joseph Lieberman, got more of the same over dinner with Republican governors that night. They made clear that energy was a major issue and that they hoped McCain would be sensitive to energy producers. By all accounts, the prospective presidential nominee was receptive.

On that same Saturday, The Wall Street Journal ran an essay by Minneapolis-St. Paul talk show host Jason Lewis critiquing Pawlenty's record -- including renewable energy mandates -- as too liberal for him to be McCain's vice president. "If you look at my record as a whole," Pawlenty told me the next day, "I would be astonished if I was not considered conservative." As for Lewis, "He doesn't think I'm conservative because I'm a proponent of clean energy, and, from my standpoint, we've got a national security issue."

"We loved Ronald Reagan, but he made some compromises along the way," Pawlenty said, adding, "We don't have a big enough party to be throwing people overboard." Presumably, that also means coal and oil interests.

Robert Novak

Robert Novak (1931-2009) was a syndicated columnist and editor of the Evans-Novak Political Report.

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