Monday, November 20, 2006

Pawlenty assumes punt formation

High on the list of this year’s pols to watch was Tim Pawlenty, it being said that he was a rising star in Republican politics and gaining ground on the Vice Presidential sweepstakes. One reason is his being a winning GOP governor in a ‘purple’ state in a tough year for Republicans. But more importantly he’s a GOP governor in what Michael Barone has labeled "Minnewisowa," a pivotal electoral region encompassing the purple states of Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa.

All that may very well be gone now as Pawlenty has positioned himself not as a pillar of Republican strength surrounded by a DFL eager to spend, but rather as someone who wants to beat the DFL to the entitlement punchbowl.

Witness this performance reported in the Star Tribune:

"We all, I think, can chart a path toward universal coverage…We're going to have to move in stages. ... We should start with covering all kids."

Star Tribune columnist Katherine Kersten points to another part of Pawlenty’s comments on HMOs at a Minneapolis health care conference, and responds:

"'What is the health value of what they do?' he said. 'How have the outcomes improved? Are we less obese? Are we less diabetic? Do we have less heart disease? Do we have less cancer? Are our children more engaged and active? Do we have less mental health challenge?'"

While the answer to some of these questions is no, Americans are in fact living longer than ever. And you've got to have a utopian vision to believe that, without HMOs, we'd be "less obese" or that our children would be "more active and engaged."

Democrats, of course, are thrilled at Pawlenty's change of heart.

This was not a good election for Minnesota Republicans, but it’s the taxpayers, employers (and employed) and medical consumers that will eventually feel the loss in a concrete fashion. Expanded state regulation and ‘ownership’ of the health care market has not improved cost or delivery of services elsewhere. Why does Pawlenty think it will now? Even more, why does he think it’s such a great career move?

If Pawlenty truly follows the ‘Hillary care’ path that his words presage, it will be the end of any higher aspirations he might have had. The Minnesota GOP appears to be in tatters and Pawlenty doesn’t appear to have any desire to be the leader that brings them back.

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