Pawlenty's Medicare bet: An 'unforced error'?

Badgered to take a stand, GOP presidential hopeful Tim Pawlenty endorses Paul Ryan's unpopular plan to overhaul Medicare. Regrettable move?

GOP presidential hopeful Tim Pawlenty
(Image credit: Lynn Goldsmith/Corbis)

Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty said Thursday that if elected president, he would sign Rep. Paul Ryan's (R-Wisc.) polarizing Medicare reform plan into law, provided he couldn't pass a proposal of his own. Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz got a quick dig in, expressing surprise that Pawlenty would back "a plan even Newt Gingrich called 'radical,'" especially after voters in New York's conservative 26th congressional district indirectly rejected the plan in a special election Tuesday. Did Pawlenty just damage his fledgling campaign, or will his qualified endorsement boost his presidential hopes?

Pawlenty really blew it: The mild-mannered Minnesotan walked into a trap, says Jonathan Chait at The New Republic. He was being pestered to say something about Ryan's Medicare plan, but he didn't have to go as far as actually promising to sign it into law. That might endear him to the conservative base that loves Ryan, but it definitely reduces the odds he'll beat President Obama in a general election. "This is a complete unforced error."

"Pawlenty walks into the Ryan trap"

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Unlike Obama, Pawlenty is showing leadership: The president has been "railing against the GOP's plans for Medicare reforms," says Rob Port at Say Anything, but he hasn't produced a counter-proposal. "Medicare is eating the national budget alive." Given a choice between Pawlenty, who's trying to tackle the issue, and Obama, who's booing from the sidelines, voters who want solutions will know which candidate to back.

"Pawlenty to Obama: 'Sorry to interrupt the European pub crawl, but what was your plan for Medicare?'"

Poor T-Paw. He had no choice: Pawlenty couldn't dodge the question forever, says Steve Benen at Washington Monthly, and he no doubt saw how Tea Party types roasted Gingrich when the latter tried to distance himself from Ryan's Medicare plan. But even Pawlenty's grudging, qualified endorsement will come back to haunt him. "Mainstream voters just won’t tolerate ending Medicare and replacing it with a privatized voucher scheme."

"Pawlenty gets off the fence, would sign Medicare privatization"

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