A month before the 2016 election, former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty, who at the time was being handsomely compensated as a lobbyist for big banks in Washington, D.C., called Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump "unfit" for office and "unhinged" and a whole lot of other unflattering things.
The infamous "Access Hollywood" tape had just been released, in which Trump bragged about how he likes to sexually assault women and, as a celebrity, he can do what he wants and get away with it. That was too much for Pawlenty, and in his harsh criticism of Trump he said he was withdrawing his support for him.
Then, that November, Pawlenty voted for Trump.
This is the way it usually goes with politics and politicians. If the wind is blowing in a certain direction, like the stiff breeze against Trump after the Access Hollywood tape came out, you distance yourself from him because he seems like a safe bet to lose the election, and in the process of criticizing him you get to inflate your own standing a bit, too, by sounding all righteous and good. In order to get ahead as a politician, you have to make yourself look good, and your opponents look bad.
Now, Pawlenty wants to be Minnesota's governor again, so he's being asked about his negativity toward Trump a month before the 2016 election. But, now, he wants everyone to know that he voted for Trump that November. Specifically, he wants Trump voters and Trump supporters to know that he voted for Trump and supports basically all of his policies.
So, in other words, Pawlenty is taking the calculated risk that a ride on Trump's coattails will be enough to carry him back to the governor's mansion in St. Paul when large swaths of voters in rural Minnesota who lean right head to the ballot box this November.
It's a gamble. A bunch of those Trump voters are farmers, farmers who are now being hit in their wallets by Trump's hardline tariffs on soybeans and other commodities exported by this country to China and elsewhere.
But there's a bigger issue here, and it comes down to voters being able to believe in someone, in this case, a politician. Bigger yet is the issue of what that politician, Pawlenty, truly believes in. If you say one thing but your subsequent actions betray your words, what good are your words? Why should anyone believe anything you say from that point on? Why should they not assume that your words are largely hollow and simply an effort to boost your own standing in the public eye? In the fall of 2016, Pawlenty in no uncertain terms said that Trump, as a politician but also a human being, had no business being President of the United States. Whether you agreed with him or not, Pawlenty wanted everyone to think that he was taking a stand, that he was standing up for his principles, and those principles would not allow him to support Trump.
And then he goes and votes for him?
A politician being insincere is certainly not unfamiliar waters for voters to navigate. But Pawlenty is asking a lot here. He said one thing and a month later did the opposite, and a year and a half later he seems pretty proud of himself. At best, it's unseemly. At worst, it's greasy.
– Mike Christopherson