It is a true rally cry for America, especially these days. But for one man those two words are the sparks for a fire in his belly that he hopes fuels a drive to make him President.
Freedom First is Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty’s newly organized Political Action Committee and in this case, it is quite obvious what the intended political actions of this committee are for. Given the people Governor Pawlenty has recruited to the staff Freedom First, whether he admits it or not, after declining to run for a third term as Governor, he is getting ready to take the presidential plunge.
Aside from having gotten some of the most experienced and capable advisors in the areas of legal counsel and fundraising, most impressive of all are his internet team. Two members working in that role are Patrick Ruffini and Mindy Finn. Both of these individuals are extraordinary, not only insofar as there masterful technological skills but also in their political instincts. The combination of their expertise in both of those areas make them and the rest of their tech team a formidable threat to any potential Republican challengers to Pawlenty.
Ruffini is truly a genius. He has a talent and grasp for policy that is in line with right of center Republican thinking and sentiments. At the same time he has a keen sense of what the mood in America is, an instinct as to how to tap into that mood. And to bring it all home, he has unmatched computer technology, design and communication skills that will, without any doubt, put all the other challengers to shame when it comes to their own P.A.C. website and internet outreach.
There are others recruited by Governor Pawlenty who are accomplished in their own areas of expertise. Vin Weber, one of the P.A.C.s co-chairs, is a powerful and influential former Minnesota congressman who has been at the center of government for two decades or more. After providing great legislative success for Republicans during his 6 terms in office, he became a lobbyist and one of the most successful at that. Along the way Weber has done more than draft and pass effective legislation and make a good chunk of money for himself. He has been a key figure in the conservative cause. Along with Jack Kemp and Jeane Kirkpatrick, Weber co-founded Empower America, a conservative policy institute dedicated to promoting economic growth, freedom, and individual responsibility. The Congressman is also a senior fellow of the Progress and Freedom Foundation and active with the Aspen Institute, where he has served as co-director of the domestic policy project, and Humphrey Institute, a policy institute based at the University of Minnesota.
One would have to wonder why Vin Weber is himself not running for President, so having him run your own P.A.C. for President is most assuredly a smart move. But still, there will be no more shrewd and fewer important members of the Pawlenty team than Patrick Ruffini.
Not scooping him up was a mistake for other 2012 contenders like Mitt Romney. As it is, Pawlenty scooped Vin Weber away from Romney. In 2008, Weber was part of the Romney team and this shift to Pawlenty’s P.A.C. can not be seen as a positive for the former Massachusetts Governor.
Overall, Tim Pawlenty must be considered a frontrunner for the 2012 Presidential nomination. He has a very strong and successful record as Governor. Had he so desired, he could have easily won reelection to a third term as Governor. Add to that the fact that a Republican who could still be popular in a state so liberal that Al Franken could represent them in the U.S. Senate and you have a candidate who obviously has crossover appeal, something that will be a prerequisite for anyone in 2012 who tries to get some of the votes of those who supported Obama in 2008
The only things working against Pawlenty at the moment are some of the advantages that other possibly candidates for the Republican nomination have.
The clear frontrunner, Mitt Romney, has already established the kind of small but robust and substantial nationwide following that Pawlenty will have to work hard to match. Romney and other potential names also have enthusiastic bases from some core Republican constituencies like social conservatives and Christian fundamentalists. Fund raising is another hill for Pawlenty to climb. One which is not and will not be a problem for Mitt Romney. But none of these current factors are obstacles that can not be overcome with the time and carefully crafted strategies that make the inroads necessary to be a viable top tier candidate in the G.O.P. primaries that earnest campaigning for will likely begin in mid 2011. That is why launching his Freedom First P.A.C. and web site now is a smart and quite frankly, necessary move.
If Pawlenty finishes out his term with a state that continues to be in better shape than we took it over, maintains his high profile and uses his P.A.C. to support the elections of some good candidates in 2010, he will be a man to reckon with. As it stands right now, he lacks any of the criticisms that other potential Republican presidential candidates have and while he does have appeal to conservatives, it is hard to paint Pawlenty as a right wing extremist. That lack of a hard edge is what could even make him the type of candidate who could give President Obama and his liberal extremism a run for his money and make Aplenty a force for Democrats to have to reckon with in 2012 too.
As for me, my mind is open to the prospects. Excluding Mike Huckabee, I look forward to people like Pawlenty, Romney or other favorites of mine such as John Thune, Haley Barbour, Jeb Bush or Sarah Palin, all getting in there and making the best case for who and how we should lead our nation back on to the path of freedom and prosperity.
The only criticism for Pawlenty that I have right now is to drop the Tpaw moniker that I see he uses on his web site. For me it has a real backwoods southern ring to it that just doesn’t sit well. But that’s me. Who knows, maybe it has an appeal that could pick off some diehard Southern Huckabee fans which is something that a Pawlenty presidential plan will badly need to do.