Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R-MN) appeared today on MSNBC’s Morning Joe to discuss the ideological direction of his party. Pawlenty, a late backer of Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman, has increasingly staked out a far right position within the GOP. He recently reversed his position on clean energy legislation, slamming the concept of cap-and-trade in June after calling for a regional cap-and-trade program in 2007. In September, he also flirted with the idea of embracing the fringe “tenther” movement to attempt to nullify health reform in his state.
The right-wing faction of the GOP, emboldened by its success in forcing out moderate Assemblywoman Dede Scozzafava (R-NY) in the NY-23 special election, has called for more purging of politicians who do not follow an orthodox conservative voting line. After talking about the developments in NY-23, the Morning Joe hosts asked Pawlenty repeatedly if he wants Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) — also a moderate — in the Republican Party. Pawlenty refused to answer the question, and again refused to say that he is even “glad” Snowe is Republican:
SCARBOROUGH: Are you glad that Olympia Snowe is a Republican?
PAWLENTY: Well, the people of Maine–
SCARBOROUGH: I’m asking you because we’re talking about this litmus test […] Are you glad Olympia Snowe is in your party?
PAWLENTY: Well, I think Olympia Snowe is somebody who is more liberal than most Republicans would like [...]
BRZEZINSKI: Was that a ‘yes,’ Governor?
PAWLENTY: Well, you know look it the people of Maine have an open process, they selected her.
Pawlenty’s adoption of a dogmatic conservative approach to being Republican was compounded by his explanation of the “minimum standards” for being Republican in his eyes:
TODD: Governor, what is the minimum standard for being a Republican? Define minimum standard for being a moderate Republican.
PAWLENTY: Well, you can’t be for card check, you can’t get endorsed by ACORN, you can’t support the stimulus bill, you can’t be for bank bailouts, that would be a starting point, Chuck. But if you’re for all those things, you’re probably not a Republican.
Of course, like Pawlenty’s sudden flip flop on climate change, his own right-wing standards for being Republican might force him to purge himself. Although he says “you can’t be for bank bailouts,” Pawlenty supported the $700 billion Bush administration bank bailouts of 2008. While he has now joined the ACORN-bashing bandwagon, in 2007, Pawlenty signed an anti-predatory mortgage law crafted in part by representatives from ACORN. And while Pawlenty is eager to bash the stimulus, his top economic adviser has toured his state, touting its success and the “tangible results from this funding.”
Snowe responded to Pawlenty in an interview with Politico, decrying “litmus tests” and saying that national Republicans could “probably borrow” from her “in terms of being in touch with your constituents.”