The Pluses and Minuses of Gov. Anonymous

By Chris Cillizza And Ben Pershing
Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Fix's mom always wanted us to be a lawyer. And, while law school is not in the cards, we have always been interested in arguing both sides of a case, especially when it comes to politics.

So throughout the summer months, we'll be arguing for (and against) the prospects of the most-mentioned potential vice presidents on both sides of the aisle.

This week, we tackled Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R), who is widely regarded as an early favorite to be Sen. John McCain's second in command but is largely unknown outside his home state of Minnesota.

First, the case for Pawlenty:

· Up From His Bootstraps In a party long viewed as being controlled by affluent elites, Pawlenty's decidedly blue-collar background puts an entirely different face on what it means to be a Republican. His mother died when he was a teenager, and his father drove a truck. Pawlenty was the first member of his family to graduate from college. He has pledged to expand the Republican Party to "Sam's Club, not just the country club."

· A Good Soldier Twice in the last decade, Pawlenty pulled back from statewide races at the behest of national party leaders -- for governor in 1998, for Senate in 2002 -- in favor of now-Sen. Norm Coleman (R). Pawlenty's willingness to shelve his own ambitions "for the good of the party" works in his favor in the veepstakes. He's proved he can wait his turn, excellent training for a vice president.

· Bridging the Evangelical Gap Pawlenty could well provide a solution to the chasm separating McCain and evangelical voters without alienating crucial moderates and independent voters. Pawlenty and his wife, Mary, are very close to Leith Anderson, pastor of their church in Eden Prairie, Minn., and the current head of the National Association of Evangelicals. "If [Pawlenty] were chosen, it would reverberate with the 30 million members of those churches almost instantaneously and very publicly," said Vin Weber, a former Republican congressman from Minnesota.

And now the case against Pawlenty:

· Tim Who? Pawlenty is virtually unknown on the national stage, despite being in his second term as governor of a swing state. Many Republican strategists say Pawlenty's relative lack of exposure on the national level would mean a rough vetting by the media if he is selected. One Republican strategist pointed out that the recent VP picks -- former senator John Edwards and Dick Cheney among them -- had already been fully vetted by the national media before they were picked. "In this environment, you can't pick someone who hasn't already been publicly vetted," the source said.

· Political Operation Incognito For a guy who has spent six years in the governor's office and was a leader in the state House before winning the gubernatorial post in 2002, Pawlenty has almost nothing resembling a typical political "machine," either at the state or national level. Even allies describe Pawlenty as generally apolitical and not someone who has spent much time building a national network of donors or hiring on national operatives to position him for a run. Without someone (or several someones) to guide him through the tricky waters of a national bid, Pawlenty could be, well, at sea.

· A Man Without a Country (Ideologically) Pawlenty enjoys strong ties to the evangelical community, but in truth he is not regarded as "one of them." Ditto fiscal conservatives who consider Pawlenty's 2005 "health impact" fee on cigarettes nothing more than a tax increase cloaked in clever language. All that means a Pawlenty pick is unlikely to be touted to McCain's advisers by either social or fiscal conservatives -- two of the most powerful elements in the party.

Cash Count

Even as the political world focused last week on the prospect that the Obama campaign will outspend the publicly financed McCain campaign by a huge margin in the fall, House and Senate Democrats quietly continued their own trouncing of their GOP counterparts in the fundraising department.

According to new Federal Election Commission reports, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee raised $6.1 million in May, and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee raised $5.9 million. Across the aisle, the National Republican Congressional Committee took in $5 million, and the National Republican Senatorial Committee banked $4.9 million.

In sum, that's $12 million for the Democrats and $9.9 million for Republicans for the month. Not a huge difference, right? But look a little farther down the ledger, and you'll see the real problem for the GOP. The Democratic committees had a whopping $85.7 million in the bank as of May 31 -- $47.2 million for the DCCC and $38.5 million for the DSCC. The Republicans reported a total of $28.3 million on hand -- $6.7 million for the NRCC and $21.6 million for the NRSC.

The bottom line, for those averse to both math and abbreviations, is that Democrats currently have triple the cash that Republicans do for House and Senate races. And the GOP certainly needs the money, as the minority party has far more seats in peril in both chambers than the majority does.

But there is a bright spot for Republicans. Despite Democrats' cash-collecting dominance in almost every other arena, the Republican National Committee continues to vastly outraise the Democratic National Committee. The RNC banked $24.4 million in May and ended the month with $53.5 million on hand. The DNC took in $4.8 million and had $4 million left over. So when McCain or his fellow congressional Republicans need extra cash, they know where to go.

FIVE DAYS: Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton will appear together publicly for the first time since the senator from New York dropped her presidential bid. Details of the appearance are closely kept, but if The Fix had to gamble -- and we NEVER gamble -- we'd bet it would be in a Rust Belt State such as Michigan, Ohio or Pennsylvania.

68 DAYS: Sen. John McCain turns 72 -- just three days before the Republican National Convention opens in St. Paul, Minn. Don't expect a high-profile birthday celebration for the septuagenarian, however. The McCain campaign doesn't want to remind undecided voters about the candidate's age.

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