On entertainment value alone, the Republican race for the presidential nomination in 2012 may be weaker with the absence of Donald Trump or a discussion of birth certificates. But those Republicans who are serious about finding a credible alternative to Barack Obama can look with increasing confidence at the field with Monday's announcement by Tim Pawlenty.
Mr. Pawlenty is, in many ways, the anti-Trump. His hair is full, but natural; he is the son of a milk truck driver, not the scion of a real estate tycoon. And he actually governed, for eight years, with success as the governor of a left-leaning state, Minnesota.
What's more important about Mr. Pawlenty is what he said in announcing his candidacy. Much of his announcement repeated Republican orthodoxies: bashing "ObamaCare," Mr. Obama's far-sighted health-care reform; appealing to Reaganites by saying "if we want to grow our economy, we need to shrink our government."
But elsewhere, Mr. Pawlenty rejected the rules said to govern American politics. He called for means-testing of Social Security benefits. He promised a phase-out of ethanol subsidies, something typically seen as the path to political suicide in Iowa, a key early state in the nomination calendar that benefits disproportionately from billions in federal funding. He angered many potential donors by promising to end industrial subsidies generally. On each of these, Mr. Pawlenty is pursuing sound policy ideas for the greater long-term benefit of the United States.
More such frankness would be welcome, especially from the likes of Mitt Romney, an otherwise credible candidate who is contorting himself to oppose Mr. Obama's health-care reform - even though it resembles the reform Mr. Romney had earlier implemented as governor of Massachusetts. And no contender is yet willing to touch the third rail of their party - Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy that (given a $1.6-trillion deficit this year) the country cannot afford.
Mr. Pawlenty is on the right track: His brand of truth-telling is a political strategy that could ultimately be more rewarding than the usual approach, stroking the base's pleasure points.Report Typo/Error
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