GOP Gov. Pawlenty Praising Obama?

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This is a rush transcript from "Your World With Neil Cavuto," August 7, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


GOV. TIM PAWLENTY (R), MINNESOTA: People want to follow hopeful, optimistic, civil, decent leaders. They don't want to follow some negative, scornful person.

Video: Watch Neil's interview with Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty

So, you know, say what you will about Barack Obama — and I say a lot of negative things about him — and we need leaders. And John McCain is positive as well. But people gravitate when you got something positive to say.


NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: Well, you know, the media jumping all over those comments, Republican Governor Tim Pawlenty — he's been bandied about as a possible running mate for John McCain — saying some nice things about Barack Obama, but he also said those same nice things about John McCain. Somehow, that did not make it into wire stories.

I spoke to Governor Pawlenty about that just a few minutes ago.


CAVUTO: Governor, I know you certainly meant well and were being kind in your remarks about Barack Obama, but that's all a lot of conservatives were talking about today.

What did you make or do you make of the — I don't know if you would call it a mini-dustup over your magnanimous comments?

PAWLENTY: Well, what I tried said — and I think what I said, if you look at the whole statement, is, he tries to be positive in his rhetoric, and he offers positive-sounding rhetoric, but his record is awful. And, so, those two things don't match up. But he attempts, in his rhetoric to be positive, as does Senator McCain, as do most candidates. Obviously, they're not going around being only negative.

So, I don't think it was meant to be a compliment. It was meant to state the obvious, which is, he attempts to have positive rhetoric, but still has an awful record, and he's not ready to be president, in my view.

CAVUTO: All right.

Now, one of the big arguments that has been raised in this battle for a running mate for John McCain is that he needs relative youth and someone the conservative part of the party admires. You seem to get a check on both counts. Has he or have his people been sizing you up?

PAWLENTY: Well, I have just stopped talking about the V.P. stuff, Neil, because, every time I used to talk about it, I would say something one word different than I would said before. It would set off another round of articles.


PAWLENTY: It just leads to more speculation. A lot of it is misguided and — and wrong. And, so, I just don't engage in it anymore, but I appreciate you asking.

CAVUTO: Could I ask you this, though, if you will indulge these obnoxious lines here, that — that it would be wise for Senator McCain to choose a conservative figure? The argument goes that he needs to shore up that base for the party and to keep them loyal into the fall.

Others argue that conservatives have nowhere else to go, he should reach out for a moderate, to even liberal running mate.

What say you?

PAWLENTY: Well, if you're going to win an election, you have got to build a coalition, starting with making sure you have the support of your base. And, in Senator McCain's case, he has done a good job of consolidating the Republican base. He's getting support from Republicans at the same level or higher than other Republican presidents or candidates at this point in the race. So, he's done that.

I still think you want somebody who is acceptable and exciting to Republicans, but also perhaps somebody who has some appeal to independents or Democrats, so you can make the coalition even bigger and increase the chances that you're going to win.

But you can do that with a mainstream conservative, or somebody who's acceptable to the Republican Party. Senator McCain is going to have a lot of good choices in that regard.

CAVUTO: Still, Governor, there are some conservatives in the party who were a little concerned when Senator McCain recently would not make an ironclad guarantee about sticking to tax cuts. I'm — I'm paraphrasing here, but that he laid open the possibility — didn't say it in so many words — that taxes could go up under certain circumstances.

PAWLENTY: Well, Neil...

CAVUTO: What about just a no-tax-pledge, sticking to it, pounding it, repeating it?

PAWLENTY: In fairness to Senator McCain, he did come out shortly after those initial concerns and definitively clarify his statement, saying he was opposed to tax increases.

So, over the years, I think he's said, in the context of a Social Security discussion, he would — he would have a discussion, at least, about anything. But, as it relates to tax increases, he clarified his statement very promptly after that concern was raised to say he wasn't going to raise any taxes.

CAVUTO: Is it your view, when it comes to Social Security, Governor, that we should raise the retirement age eventually?

PAWLENTY: No, that's not my view.

I think we need to move towards, in my view, individual accounts for those who are interested or capable or able to manage and have those kinds of accounts, and give people the option to have that type of system, to choose to, if they would like.

CAVUTO: All right. So, when it comes to the president's tax cuts, if you were to let a couple of them, one of them expire, is that a tax hike?

PAWLENTY: Well, I think, if you benchmark it against the current revenues and current tax code, if you have a tax that is going to go up compared to where it is now, yes, that's a tax hike.

CAVUTO: All right.

Now, you closed a $4.5 billion gap in the Minnesota state budget without raising taxes. But, later, conservatives piled on you, because they said you threw in fees and the like that were really largely earmarked for a new stadium.

Having said that, you really do have to be truer than blue on this issue, don't you? Does it worry you that, whether it's fees or services, or anything like that, that this could be a problem for almost any Republican?

PAWLENTY: Well, when I ran, and we had the big deficit, I said we were going to raise some user fees. And, so, that wasn't, you know, a new thing.

We did have a stadium built in Minneapolis, but the state didn't pay one dime for that. We allowed the local county, if they wanted to, to raise the local sales tax, but we didn't do that as a state or as a state legislature. We just gave them the authority to do that locally, if they wanted. And there are some other things, as well.

But, as a Republican, as a conservative, you know, if we lose the mantle of being fiscally disciplined, the people who are going to keep a lid on taxes and spending, then we really just become the lite version of the Democrats. And I don't think that's helpful in terms of what we believe and what we stand for, and the ultimate success of our party and candidates.

CAVUTO: Governor, Senator McCain has — has gone on record as saying, via an ad, that we are worse off than we were four years ago. Some, of course, in the Bush White House interpreted that as a slap on the president.

Was it?

PAWLENTY: Well, that can be objectively measured.

And I think Senator McCain and President Bush have had some tense relationships over the years on a variety of issues. But, if you look back at the key measurements of quality of life or economic performance, you know, that's not a disputable matter, in the sense that you can go back and measure it. And so, whether it's fair or accurate, I think, is something that can be proven, not debated.

CAVUTO: But you have been a loyal friend and supporter of McCain, even when he was very much down. So, you have followed this whole saga.

Would you, as a friend, and an adviser, be telling Senator McCain, get as far away from President Bush as you can?


PAWLENTY: Well, Senator McCain has an established record and reputation for being a maverick, being an independent.

And you look at all the times that he has taken on or been different than the president, including the surge, including torture, including nuclear proliferation issues, including spending and energy issues as well, Senator McCain has — already has the reputation of being different than or separated from President Bush.

CAVUTO: All right.

Economically, it's always tough for the party that controls the White House to ignore a slowing economy, and oftentimes it's hurt by that slowing economy. Ironically, this nominee so far has not been. If anything, for example, on the drilling issue, he has had sort of a leg up on Barack Obama.

Do you find that surprising, that the economy, which could conceivably really hurt Republicans, at this point, does not appear to be?

PAWLENTY: Well, I think the American people are wise.

And, in the end, after they have thought about this, and they look at their choice, somebody, in Barack Obama, who appears unsteady, who has been changing his position a lot — and, obviously, his record, as it becomes more and more known, is a record of more government, more tax increases, probably less energy, higher energy prices, and they compare that to the McCain approach, you know, keeping a lid on taxes, lowering taxes, providing people with the, you know, tax incentives to get health care and on down the list, and being very aggressive on energy, plus having the actual — on McCain's side, having the wisdom and experience and judgment to be president, I think there's a reason why the numbers are migrating toward Senator McCain.

It's because people are figuring this out for those reasons and more. Again, like I said yesterday, Senator Obama sometimes sounds like he's got positive record, but it doesn't — or rhetoric — but it doesn't match his record. And his record, when it comes out, you know, is — is not the right direction for the country. It's very partisan, and it's very left- leaning.

And it's going to dump a lot of taxes and burdens and costs on the heads of people like small businesses, which is very bad for the economy.

CAVUTO: You know, they say as well, the Democrats, that, you know, John McCain has been switching his views on a number of subjects, from drilling to, early on, the president's tax cuts, again and again, and he doesn't get nearly the heat in the media that Barack Obama does.

Do they have a point?

PAWLENTY: Well, you know, he has, to Senator McCain's credit, said, "Look, we have a crisis, and I'm willing to tackle the crisis boldly and just come out." And he did it early. He did it in a forthright manner.

You know, Senator Obama only did it after the number — his numbers started to erode. And then he put a bunch of conditions on it. Senator Obama said, well, I'm willing to consider — quote, unquote — "some drilling" as part of a larger package. And, of course, the larger package is going to be defined by Nancy Pelosi. You can imagine what that's going to look like. Awful. And it will probably never happen.

So, I think his offer is not even complete or sincere.

CAVUTO: Governor, a real pleasure having you on. Thank you very much.

PAWLENTY: Thank you, Neil. I appreciate it.

CAVUTO: Be well.

PAWLENTY: OK. You, too.

CAVUTO: All right.


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