Pawlenty and Bachmann: Political deja vu?

7:07 PM, May 20, 2011   |    comments
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Political Deja Vu?

MINNEAPOLIS -- The expected announcement of a Presidential bid by former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty on Monday and the equally expected announcement of a bid by Minnesota Congresswomen Michele Bachmann is a kind of déjà vu for political observers.

"Yeah, this is pretty unusual to have two Minnesotans. It has been literally a couple of generations since it last happened," noted Hamline Political Scientist David Schulz.

In 1968, anti-war U.S. Senator Eugene McCarthy (D-Minnesota) challenged the Democratic nomination bid of Minnesotan and Vice President Hubert Humphrey. Humphrey's usual "Happy Warrior" image was overshadowed by protests over American involvement in the Vietnam War.

McCarthy waged a campaign for younger voters with his troops of newly-shorn short haired University of Minnesota students going door-to-door in a "Clean for Gene" movement.

The assassination of anti-war candidate Robert Kennedy in June fueled violent street demonstrations at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. Humphrey won the nomination, but lost the election to Republican Richard Nixon.

Hamline's David Schultz sees some parallels between that race for the Democratic nomination in 1968 and a looming battle for a Republican nod in 2012. He sees Humphrey as carrying a traditional party endorsement, while McCarthy was the upstart candidate. Schultz pictures Pawlenty as carrying a more traditional banner, this year, to Bachmann's Tea Party popularity.

"I think we have seen, repeatedly, a media edge for Congresswoman Bachmann. I mean, whenever she says anything about the mere possibility of a run, all eyes turn to her," said University of Minnesota political scientist Kathryn Pearson. "If you look at fundraising, Congresswoman Bachmann has raised just an incredible amount of money in her last race and, already, she has raised a lot of money [this year]."

Schultz agreed that the edge at the moment seems to go to Bachmann.

"Pawlenty has been running, unofficially, for about a year and a half. He is still fairly low in the polls and part of the difficulty he has faced is he has not quite defined his message yet. He has not really found a part of the party that he resonates [with], that is really enthusiastically behind him."

By contrast, Schultz pointed to Bachmann's identification with the Tea Party "a very enthusiastic part of the party."

Pearson looked south for problems in both candidacies.

"The hard thing for the two of them is that they both need to do well in Iowa. They both have connections to Iowa. Iowa, of course, is a neighboring state. Iowa is a conservative state in terms of the Republican electorate."

One footnote to the 1968 election is that there were actually three Minnesotans running. Former Governor Harold Stassen made one of his nine failed bids for the GOP nomination that year.


(Copyright 2011 by KARE. All Rights Reserved.)

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