Trying to, at least. I must confess that when I saw Katie's post this morning, I was startled. Tim Pawlenty? The guy who coined the term "Obamneycare" is throwing in his lot with the target of that attack -- and so soon? Here are a few select bits of T-Paw's explanation at NRO:
Fortunately, America may get a second chance: Mitt Romney is running for president, and I am proud to endorse him. Alone among the contenders, he possesses the unique qualifications to confront and master our severe economic predicament. His abiding faith in our country’s exceptional historical position as a beacon of freedom will make him the most important leader in a world that depends upon a strong America to stay at peace. As governor of Massachusetts, he turned that state’s budget around from deficit to surplus while simultaneously cutting taxes, but that is not the full measure of what he will bring to the presidency.
He’s formulated an economic plan — a set of alternatives to the government-oriented programs that Barack Obama has put in place — that is unparalleled in the history of American electoral campaigns. By pressing for fundamental change in the way that Washington taxes and spends, issues regulations, uses energy, interacts with our major trading partners, and deals with our labor force, he fully envisions a way to place America back on the path toward rapid economic growth and full employment...he’s not only a family man, he is a man of principle. He believes in the bedrock conservative ideals of limited government and free enterprise.
Conspicuously absent: Any mention whatsoever of Obamneycare. Quick flashback -- here's what Pawlenty was saying about the Massachusetts health law just a few months ago:
“President Obama said that he designed Obamacare after Romneycare, and basically made it Obamneycare,” Pawlenty said on Fox News Sunday. “We now have essentially the same features. The President’s own words is that he patterned in large measure Obamacare after what happened in Massachusetts. What I don’t understand is they both continue to defend it,” Pawlenty added.
He also, tellingly, said this: "In order to prosecute the case against Obama, you have to be able to show you have a better plan and a different plan." And today? Endorsement. I'm puzzled. We knew who Pawlenty was never going to endorse, obviously, but the Romney pick is something of a head-scratcher. In my recent column laying out the strength of a potential Perry/Pawlenty ticket, I quoted a source close to T-Paw who went out of his way to comment on how famously the two got along. Pawlenty's entire campaign was premised on highlighting the results he achieved as a successful multi-term governor, who rejected the siren song of big government "solutions" on issues like healthcare. Perry, therefore, would seem like a natural fit for him. Apparently not.
Pace much of the developing conventional wisdom, I don't think Pawlenty is angling for a Veep spot with this move. If Romney emerges as the GOP standard-bearer, his nomination will be greeted with acute disappointment in many conservative quarters. He will have no choice but to select a respected, base-pleasing running mate to energize the Right (cough). As much as I like him, Tim Pawlenty plainly would not fit that bill -- a truth that should be even more evident today. I still believe that T-Paw's best shot at snagging a Vice Presidential nod was aboard the Perry train, and now he's all but forfeited that possibility.
Pawlenty says he has his reasons for supporting Romney, although some will snort at his "man of principle" line. Maybe he doesn't see Perry as electable -- who knows? -- but I don't think this is a naked power play from T-Paw. His Romney rationale may seem flimsy to more than a few conservatives, but I don't think he's motivated by ulterior, self-serving designs.* Parting thought: As an unapologetic T-Paw fan, his decision to endorse Romney has had zero effect on me, except to inspire the question, "why? Who, if anyone, will actually be persuaded by this endorsement?
*UPDATE - Follow the money?
UPDATE II - Phil Klein unloads on Pawlenty.
UPDATE III - The happy couple: