Pawlenty big loser in Minnesota caucuses

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Super Tuesday was a big win for Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., nationally, but in Minnesota he struggled to beat former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee. For second place.

McCain finished a distant second, twenty points behind former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who easily won the Minnesota caucuses on Tuesday night. For McCain, it was a minor disappointment on a night where he did very well nationally. But for one man, it was a disaster.

That man is Minnesota’s Gov. Tim Pawlenty, McCain’s national campaign co-chair, who saw his candidate get obliterated in Minnesota even as he was winning nationwide.

This did not go unnoticed. Kathryn Jean Lopez, the editor of National Review Online, noted the result, saying, “How did that happen? Tim Pawlenty’s not a happy man tonight.” And Gary Miller of Minnesota blog Truth v. The Machine observed, “After leaning on every elected official in the state to back his candidate of choice, Mr. Pawlenty’s inability to deliver will hurt him in the 2008 veepstakes.”

Indeed it will. Pawlenty already was on shaky ground as a potential vice presidential candidate, given that his selection would immediately be greeted with questions about collapsing bridges. But now it’s clear Pawlenty can’t even deliver the state among Republicans; indeed, he couldn’t even get it close.

But it’s not just Pawlenty’s future aspirations that took a hit last night. The loss provides further evidence of Pawlenty’s weak political position in the state, and it could herald trouble as we go into the legislative session. If he can’t rally Republicans to his side for a candidate whose campaign he’s co-chairing, how can he expect to pull in DFL and independent support for the Republican legislative agenda? Indeed, how will he be able to hold on to GOP votes in the legislature when things get heated this spring?

No, last night was a bad night for Pawlenty; he was clearly the big loser in the Minnesota caucuses.

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