Tim Pawlenty’s Top Five Flip Flops

On Facebook today, former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty (R) is announcing that he is forming an exploratory committee to consider running for the 2012 Republican nomination for President.

Since last year, Pawlenty has transformed himself into an orthodox Republican, quickly shedding the forward-thinking, “Sam’s Club” conservatism he once personified as governor. Pawlenty has even come under fire for dropping his Minnesota accent in favor of an invented Southern drawl while speaking to audiences in Arkansas. As he gears up for a 2012, Pawlenty has shown a willingness to do a complete 180 on a number of key policy areas:

1. FROM CAP-AND-TRADE CHAMPION TO CLIMATE DENIER: As chairman of the National Governor’s Association in 2007, Pawlenty called for the nation to move “boldly and aggressively” to develop and promote clean energy initiatives. The next year, in a joint radio address with then-Arizona governor Janet Napolitano, Pawlenty urged Congress to pass a cap-and-trade law. Yet last month Pawlenty told Meet the Press that “cap and trade, I think, would be a disaster” and denied that human activity was causing global climate change.

2. “NAKED CYNICISM” ON A GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN: In 2005, Pawlenty told the Associated Press that a government shutdown in Minnesota would be painful and regrettable. “Anyone who considers the negative impacts of a shutdown should see it as a reason to seriously get back to the negotiating table,” Pawlenty said. When the state government did shut down, Pawlenty blamed it on the “naked cynicism” of his political opponents. But earlier this year Pawlenty said the 2005 shutdown should have lasted longer, and supported a federal shutdown, declaring at a gathering of Tea Party activists that “a dramatic month” was “what we need.”

3. REJECTED HEALTH CARE LAW EVEN WHILE ACCEPTING HEALTH CARE FUNDS: Despite signing an executive order that blocked implementation of the federal health care law in Minnesota, Pawlenty allowed state agencies to accept $10 million in grants allocated by the law. Pawlenty even applied for abstinence-only education funds provided for by the law.

4. HYPOCRISY ON “RECKLESS SPENDING”: Despite calling a $26.1 billion federal aid package for the states “reckless spending” and a “bailout” that Minnesota did not need, Pawlenty asked for $263 million from the package to bolster his state’s Medicaid program.

5. RAISED TAXES THEN CRUSADED AGAINST TAXES: Earlier this month, Pawlenty told ThinkProgress that “the corporate tax rate in Minnesota and around the country is too high.” Yet in 2008, Pawlenty supported a $109 million corporate tax increase. And during his eight years as governor, Pawlenty instituted a number of new fees and taxes that shifted the tax burden on to Main Street.

Pawlenty is not the only potential GOP Presidential candidate to move right and obscure his record, and as the Republican field grows in the coming months, ThinkProgress will continue will keep you informed about the latest flip flops and turnarounds.

Kevin Donohoe