After flirting with national office in 2008 – as a purported finalist on John McCain’s short list of Vice-Presidential nominees – Tim Pawlenty has the luxury of governing a state in which gubernatorial elections are conducted in presidential off-year cycles.

Governor Pawlenty has stated that he is not going to announce whether or not he will run for reelection until 2009. However, presuming he still wishes to be involved in politics as an officeholder, the odds are fair to good that he will indeed seek a third term.

Should Pawlenty also have national ambitions and get the itch to run for President, he would be able to do so without technically jeopardizing his gubernatorial career or reelection campaign. However, launching a 2011 campaign for the presidency after releection in 2010 might be seen as a bit unseemly by DFLers; no doubt it would surely be a campaign issue in his reelection bid.

But a run for a third term per se would not be unprecented in Minnesota political history. Seven Gopher State Governors have each won three consecutive gubernatorial elections, although each were for two-year terms:

· Republican John S. Pillsbury (1875, 1877, 1879)
· Democrat John A. Johnson (1904, 1906, 1908)
· Republican Theodore Christianson (1924, 1926, 1928)
· Farmor-Laborite Floyd B. Olson (1930, 1932, 1934)
· Republican Harold E. Stassen (1938, 1940, 1942)
· Republican Luther W. Youngdahl (1946, 1948, 1950)
· DFLer Orville L. Freeman (1954, 1956, 1958)

Freeman was also the DFL nominee on the losing side of elections bookending his gubernatorial reign: in 1952 and 1960. An eighth governor, DFLer Rudy Perpich, ran for a third term and lost in 1990.

If reelected in 2010, Pawlenty would thus be the longest serving Governor in state history (whether or not he serves out the entirety of a third term).

And as for Pawlenty’s presidential credentials, while he may not be the freshest of faces for which the GOP is looking to lead their Party in 2012 (e.g. Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal; Alaska Governor Sarah Palin), the Minnesota Governor duly impressed the Party (and the national media) in 2006 by staving off defeat in a Democratic wave election year.

And a track record of being able to come out on the winning side of a battleground state might indeed be a prerequisite for the next Republican presidential nominee.

18 Comments

  1. John K on November 12, 2008 at 9:51 am

    Why would Minnesota want to reelect a no-show governor in 2010 just so he can run for president in 2012? Minnesota deserves a full-time governor who actually wants the job.



  2. MnBlueWaters on November 12, 2008 at 10:55 am

    Your assumptions are incorrect. Pawlenty cannot risk a 3rd run for Governor. This man has never received over 50% of the vote in two elections. If he loses, his bid for federal office is over. He will not run for Guv and will instead transition to the National stage.



  3. Eric Ostermeier on November 12, 2008 at 11:08 am

    > Your assumptions are incorrect. Pawlenty cannot risk a 3rd
    > run for Governor. This man has never received over 50% of
    > the vote in two elections.

    He can risk it — as you are not taking into account a few factors.

    First, since Pawlenty survived 2006 it is quite likely he will survive 2010 — as the odds of a third straight Democratic wave election are extremely low. With a more favorable political environment at his back, Pawlenty could easily win a third term. Remember, unlike Norm Coleman (who also appears to have won in the face of a Democratic wave), Pawlenty has a fairly high job approval rating: in the low to mid 50s.

    Secondly, the fact that Pawlenty has not received 50 percent of the vote is an artifact not of his unpopularity but of the uniquely strong position third parties enjoy in the State of Minnesota. Over the past 10+ years, Minnesota has the highest support for third parties across elections in the Midwest – U.S. House, U.S. Senate, state legislature, and, of course, in gubernatorial contests.

    While former Virginia Senator George Allen may counsel otherwise, I do not expect Pawlenty to shy away from what may be much less of a challenge than you think.



  4. Nick on November 12, 2008 at 1:16 pm

    >>First, since Pawlenty survived 2006 it is quite likely he will survive 2010 — as the odds of a third straight Democratic wave election are extremely low.

    That’s true, but what are the chances that voters just decide they want something different? By 2010, he’ll have been in office for seven years. Popular or not, do you think the voters will be okay with having him as the governor for more than a decade? It seems to me like that is getting to be a lot of years, and that he may be better backing off and finding a different way to stay in the public eye.



  5. franco on November 13, 2008 at 5:15 pm

    Minnesota has really had bad luck with governors. One was a WWF wrestler named Jake the Snake Roberts, and the other is reported as a “ghost Governor” Its unfortunate because this is a state that needs officials that will look in its best interest!



  6. anthony on November 17, 2008 at 12:30 pm

    I believe Pawlenty will make a good fourth term. I feel like he really learned from his inexperience through the first two terms and this last term he really showed strength in his policy issues and where he plans to take us in the next term. if not re elected it poses another trial year for his replacement so we should re elect him and let him finish what he started.



  7. heather on November 18, 2008 at 12:56 pm

    I agree, his first two terms where to feel out the office and create a boundary to help his next two years really make a difference. If hes isnt elected for this next term its going to be another evaluation period for whoever is selected.



  8. SEO Company on November 20, 2008 at 1:09 pm

    I think a lot of it will have to do with how he reacts to this economic crisis. Bringing more jobs to Minnesota will definitely help out his chance along with maybe lowering the state taxes to helpout the consumer spending.



  9. Aubrey Immelman on November 23, 2008 at 11:10 am

    ” … since Pawlenty survived 2006 it is quite likely he will survive 2010 — as the odds of a third straight Democratic wave election are extremely low. …”

    One of the challenges Gov. Pawlenty will face if he decides to run in 2010 is that he will have Minnesota 6th District Rep. Michele Bachmann downballot. Will he endorse her? Will he campaign for her?

    This will be an even thornier problem if he runs for president in 2012.

    If Gov. Pawlenty gets the nomination, the Democrats (and before that, even some of his Republican challengers for the nomination) most assuredly will use footage of Gov. Pawlenty campaigning for the albatross — they’ll probably substitute the name of the Minnesota state bird and call his judgment into question — in conjunction with video clips and news stories such as those that I’ve posted at the links below.

    Bachmann Bears False Witness

    $2 Gas? Bad News.



  10. Jarvis on April 16, 2009 at 4:01 pm

    I guess we all will see how his politcal career goes. I think it’s in Jeopardy and it depends on how Minnesota handles the Economy crisis and if they create more jobs…



  11. Fresno Web Design on April 28, 2009 at 10:41 am

    Minnesota is a great state. I did service for a non-profit organization there. Many help from the state government.

    -monty



  12. Anne on May 5, 2009 at 4:55 pm

    If Pawlenty does not allow his state to have new senator he should pay for it by losing in 2010. Or by recall. Minnesotans., get mad!



  13. Chloe on July 20, 2009 at 7:11 am

    Thank God he has stated that he wont be seeking a third term in office, but who will replace him and finally take an interest in the welfare of the state.



  14. Los Angele employment law attorney on July 29, 2009 at 2:37 pm

    Thank you everybody for sharing your opinion. This is a great blog – very informative!



  15. Lao Music on August 8, 2009 at 11:22 am

    When I was living in Minneapolis, Jesse Ventura was the governor at the time..most of the people doesn’t like him either. Being a governor you get blame for almost everything..



  16. Club Penguin Cheats on January 25, 2010 at 1:23 am

    The fact that Pawlenty has not received 50 percent of the vote is an artifact not of his unpopularity but of the uniquely strong position third parties enjoy in the State of Minnesota. Over the past 10+ years, Minnesota has the highest support for third parties across elections in the Midwest – U.S. House, U.S. Senate, state legislature, and, of course, in gubernatorial contests.



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