Tim Pawlenty: Freedom First

Today a number of Red State contributors took the opportunity to participate in a conference call with Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty. A number of other bloggers did too, and if you’re interested in the assessments of other smart people, I encourage you to read Brad Jackson, Jim Geraghty, Ed Morrissey, Jim Antle, Marc Ambinder, and Chip Hanlon.

I’ll salute Pawlenty for one thing: we at Red State have done our best to hammer home the point that prospective 2012 candidates had better engage in 2010, and Pawlenty seems to get it. His new Freedom First PAC is clearly and explicitly focused on the elections before 2012. I’m glad to see that Pawlenty’s first real step onto the national scene is set on the right goal – even if there is legitimate question about the effectiveness of these PACs generally.

Pawlenty makes clear that his PAC is all about promoting freedom – first and foremost economic freedom. He spoke about promoting choice in medical care and education, and advocating for limited government. The word ‘freedom’ came up a lot.

This is all to the good. But it is a little vague. And when I asked Pawlenty how much he hoped to raise and donate, or how many races he intended to involve himself in, or what the criteria were for determining whom to support, the responses were again a little vague. On the one hand, perhaps that’s to be expected. This is after all, the first day of the PAC. Still, it would have been nice to come away with a more concrete sense of Pawlenty’s plan – particularly given the big buildup to the call.

I come away with the sense that this will probably just be another leadership PAC – which is fine, of course – but that it will probably operate very much like most other leadership PACs. The rhetoric generally seems to match what I hear from other conservative candidates and officials. (Just for fun, count how many conservative candidates use the name ‘Freedom’ in their PACs.)

I hope that the Governor does more with it, however – raises and distributes more money, backs more ‘diamond-in-the-rough’ conservative winners, and shows up in more districts than any other 2012 hopeful. If he hopes to contend for the GOP nomination – an idea he is obviously entertaining – that would a great hook.