As speculation crests about Mitt Romney's choice to run alongside him against President Obama and either Joe Biden or Hillary Clinton, two arguments resurface as darts aimed at former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty. Neither one is true, and thus this column.
Along with many other pundits, I assume Gov. Romney's choice will be driven first by a threshold question of whether a potential partner in governing is ready to be president should that awful circumstance arise. After that threshold test is met, however, it will be all about politics and personal chemistry.
Whether those calculations end up promoting Kelly Ayotte, Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, Rob Portman, Marco Rubio or someone else to the No. 2 spot nobody knows, but the two charges against Pawlenty are simply not true.
First, his critics (who include no doubt backers of other horses) say Pawlenty is dull.
Other than Romney, I have interviewed Pawlenty more often than any other elected official over the past 12 years. With great certainty I can say he is easily the funniest, best interview of all the shortlisted candidates I have spoken with. Because the hockey-playing, quick-to-smile former chief exec of the Gopher State is at ease with himself, he is similarly at ease in sit-downs with reporters, ready, willing and very able to give as good as he gets, and very disciplined when it comes to message delivery.
This is an enormous advantage in our media-soaked world, especially in these days of 24/7 news cycles and social media ubiquity. The candidates are always "on," and the would-be veep needs especially to be out in the lists every day, doing talk radio, local television and endless fundraisers at which every cellphone is a potential game-changing link to the mainstream media.
Pawlenty, to my knowledge, has never given a bad interview, and having not only interviewed him at length on scores of occasions, but also having watched him in places as diverse as the green room and set of ABC's "This Week" debating Rahm Emmanuel and the stage of Minneapolis' Orchestra Hall being questioned by my colleague Dennis Prager before a live audience of hundreds, I know he has a very rare ability to connect simultaneously with viewers and the people in proximity to him.
This is a rare and extremely valuable asset in politics, one that matters a great deal over the next four months.
The second objection is Pawlenty's failed presidential campaign, and the appearance of losing to Michele Bachmann and Newt Gingrich.
The answer here is the peculiar dynamic of the 2012 primary race, a dynamic Romney understands, having been caught in a crossfire in the race in 2008. Pawlenty ran into an early GOP primary electorate not looking to win the fall 2012 race so much as to promote vehicles through which to express anger at the president. That impulse -- the demand for white-hot passion -- played itself out as more and more Republican voters got serious about winning, but Pawlenty was its first victim.
Now, however, the Romney campaign must focus on the undecideds in the key swing states, including Minnesota's borderlands of Wisconsin and Iowa. Pawlenty may not dazzle the Manhattan-Beltway media elite, but his blue-collar roots allow him to connect with key voters in key states.
Finally, the parallels between 1980 and 2012 are obvious, and Ronald Reagan found a great complement in George H.W. Bush, who had been through the early campaign onstage with him. One more bonus: former Judge Mary Pawlenty is a talented, wonderful partner to her very competent, very steady husband.
It is a close call among many very qualified potential nominees, but Tim Pawlenty brings the sort of qualities the mainstream media discounts but that general election voters love.
Examiner Columnist Hugh Hewitt is a law professor at Chapman University Law School and a nationally syndicated radio talk show host who blogs daily at HughHewitt.com.