With over five months to go before the Iowa Caucus, the 2012 GOP primary has its first casualty. Poor TPaw had no chance; his campaign couldn’t even handle an unofficial straw poll with barbeque and fried butter on a stick, and came to an abrupt end after he placed an unimpressive third behind Michelle Bachmann and Ron Paul.
How does TPaw’s withdrawal impact the shape of the Republican race? Given the nature of his campaign, it’s hard to say. He tried to move to the right of Romney throughout the race, but also labeled himself as a moderate governor of a Blue State.
He branded himself as a more competitive general election candidate, but also struggled to find any base of support. He criticized candidates for running as “entertainer-in-chief” rather than substantive politicians, and also ran ads that looked like trailers for a bad action movie. The truth is, the TPaw campaign never had a message, never had a theme. Perhaps that’s what happens when you hire a 29 year old who may or may not be brilliant to manage a presidential campaign. Even his withdrawal from the race was bungled; after the Ames Straw Poll Pawlenty tweeted “Congrats to Rep. Bachmann on her win. Our campaign needed to show progress and we did. I’m eager for the campaign ahead.” Does that mean TPaw was eager to quit? Or were there just some campaign events in those following 10 hours that he was really looking forward to?
However, there is one way the Pawlenty’s departure changes the nature of the Republican field: Foreign policy. Of the contenders, Pawlenty was the only one who called for a more aggressive approach to our conflicts in Afghanistan and Libya. With him gone, we may now be guaranteed a Republican candidate who takes a more isolationist foreign policy position—a strong rebuke of neoconservative foreign policy developed during the Bush Administration.
If this led to a similar shift by Republicans in Congress, it could reshape the balance between the Executive and Legislature regarding foreign policy. In recent years Congress has had little control over military action; although Congress can authorize or limit war funding, the notion of defunding the troops is usually deemed to politically dangerous to pursue. But with Members willing to take the economy to the brink of collapse to win concessions on an issue, we might see a more extreme stance on funding the military to bring Congress back into the debate, and bring U.S. forces out of the various areas of the world they are currently pursing combat operations.
Image by DonkeyHotey.