As the frenzy of speculation over whom Mitt Romney will pick as his running mate intensifies, David Axelrod, senior adviser to President Obama’s reelection campaign, predicts that it will be former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty.
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“If I were picking, I’d pick Pawlenty,” Axelrod told National Journal. “You shouldn’t write that, because everybody will think I’m trying to bait [Romney] into picking Pawlenty.”
Virtually everyone in Obama’s high command is girding for a Pawlenty pick. Numerous interviews revealed that no one expects Romney to pick the other veep finalists, such as Ohio Sen. Rob Portman (a former budget director and trade representative for President George W. Bush) or Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan. Portman and Pawlenty have long been on Romney’s short list. Ryan is experiencing a late surge of supportive conservative clamor. There are also, however, some conservative Ryan doubters.
Opposition research, of course, is at the ready for everyone thought to be on Romney’s short list. But the psychological preparations at Obama’s Chicago headquarters seem geared almost entirely toward a Romney-Pawlenty ticket.
“That’s my influence,” Axelrod told NJ. “I’ve been saying Pawlenty for four months. The reasoning, as a strategist, would be: He is acceptable to the Right and the evangelicals, but he’s not scary to moderates. He’s good on television. He’s been through this. “
“Even though it was an abortive attempt [at the presidency], he has some sense of what this national thing is like. He’s got a good working-class story, which is probably a good complement to Romney, and he’s been out there defending him. He’s proven his commitment and loyalty. So, for those reasons I expect Pawlenty. He’s not a Washington guy. He doesn’t have the Bush taint that Portman does. “
Axelrod seemed genuine. One can never know the Machiavellian tendencies of a top political adviser to a rival campaign riffing so expansively on this touchy subject. In one aspect of Axelrod’s assessment of Pawlenty, he spoke with apparent conviction – the need for a running mate to cope with the zoo-like quality of a national campaign. Axelrod said that’s a big reason why Obama picked then-Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware.
“I know people laugh because they say ‘Biden, he makes mistakes, and blah, blah, blah.’ The truth is, one of the reasons [Obama] picked Biden is, he had been through it and he wasn’t going to be a shock to [Obama’s] system. That was really important. Pawlenty has some experience in the national thing, and he’s been in debates.”
Axelrod also seems to have taken stock of Pawlenty’s TV chops and emerged with grudging professional admiration.
“Of all of those you have heard of, he’s got a pretty good TV style,” Axelrod said. “He’s cool. He’s casual. He can be colloquial. I would be surprised if they didn’t pick him. And I think Romney’s kind of not looking for risk.”
Contacted by NJ, Pawlenty had no comment. Neither did Romney senior adviser Eric Fehrnstrom.
Probably too risky.