Josh Goodman is a former staff writer for GOVERNING..E-mail: email@example.com
Tim Pawlenty is both the governor of Minnesota and the national co-chairman of John McCain's presidential campaign. You don't have to be a fashion consultant to know that wearing two hats is difficult.
The tension between his two jobs is evident in Pawlenty's response to comments McCain made about the I-35W bridge collapse. From the Associated Press:
ST. PAUL, Minn. - Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a leading supporter of Republican presidential candidate John McCain, warned Thursday against a rush to judgment about the cause of a Minneapolis bridge collapse a day after the senator blamed it on wasteful pork-barrel spending.
In Pennsylvania on Wednesday, McCain told reporters: "The bridge in Minneapolis didn't collapse because there wasn't enough money. The bridge in Minneapolis collapsed because so much money was spent on wasteful, unnecessary pork-barrel projects."
Asked if McCain's comments were appropriate or should be corrected, Pawlenty said, "I don't know what he's basing that on other than the general premise that projects got misprioritized throughout time."
From that response, it's sounds as though Gov. Pawlenty disagrees with McCain, but Co-Chairman Pawlenty doesn't want to cause the Arizona senator trouble.
Pawlenty's view is that the bridge collapse wasn't fundamentally about a lack of spending on the bridge -- or at least that there's not enough evidence to confirm that money was key. The context is that Pawlenty opposed gas tax increases to direct more money to transportation spending, both before and after the bridge collapse. He disagrees with lawmakers who connect those actions to the tragedy.
McCain, however, implied that the bridge collapse was about money. Even though his explicit target is pork-barrel spending, the reason pork is a problem, he says, is that it prevented more money from being spent on the bridge.
Two open questions: Does this minor disagreement have any effect on Pawlenty's chances of being McCain's running mate? How will McCain's comments placing the I-35W bridge and Hurricane Katrina in the context of pork-barrel spending be viewed in Minnesota and Louisiana, respectively?
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