Pawlenty Maneuvers With Governors and Press At GOP Governors Conference

By Friday afternoon, Gov. Sarah Palin had already left sunny and warm Miami, as well as the cold shoulder she got from at least one governor running for president, to return to freezing but politically warmer Alaska.

Palin skipped the governors’ vote Friday morning that elected South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford the new chair of the Republican Governors Association, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour vice-chair, and Florida Gov. Charlie Crist chair of the RGA’s February 2009 Annual Gala in Washington, D.C.

HUMAN EVENTS was first to report Thursday that RGA Chair, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, remarkably and clumsily cut short Palin’s press conference and turned the huge media throng here into an angry, shouting crowd.

After HUMAN EVENTS reported the halting of Palin’s press conference, corroboration of our take on what happened came from another media source: “Another Republican governor eyeing a presidential run in 2012 told CNN the event [Palin’s press conference] was ‘odd’ and ‘weird,’ and said it “unfortunately sent a message that she was the de facto leader of the party.” NBC News, which falsely reported last night that it was Palin who wanted the news conference cut short, has corrected itself this morning on Today.

The only thing “odd” and “weird” to this reporter, who was less than ten feet from this fiasco was that any of these eight other governors were even on the stage with Palin. This was, according to the RGA Press Guidelines, to be her show, her time, and her opportunity to make a splash “for twenty minutes of questions and answers from Governor Palin.” Surely none of these other governors thought the media were there to quiz them. They were in the way, which was precisely why they were there.

Confirmation of this gubernatorial envy and obstruction of Palin comes from RGA Communications Director Chris Schrimpf, who tells HUMAN EVENTS, “The governors were there on the stage to make sure the media focused on 2010 rather than on any one governor.”

The “Republican governor eyeing a presidential run in 2012” appears to be Minnesota’s Tim Pawlenty. Pawlenty used his time at yesterday’s roundtable discussion to cast himself as the “modern” Republican while casting aspersions on the traditional conservative message, calling for outreach to the “new demographics,” deriding the GOP for allegedly being 15 years behind in the use of the Internet, and calling for the party not to be led by “a crank.” Pawlenty appears to have John McCain’s penchant for attacking conservatives rather than those in the other party.

Pawlenty in Miami was publicly angry, agitated, and even cranky, possibly because he found himself at odds with the far more conservative tone of every other speaker here. Hundreds of RGA members, who paid thousands of dollars to attend this Conference, wildly applauded “red meat” conservative pronouncements by speakers and not the more moderate and conservative-jabbing words by Pawlenty. And then there’s his “Palin problem,” real or imagined, that hit the fan yesterday in front of the national media, possibly upon the insistence of Pawlenty himself, as the above-reported comments to CNN by an anonymous presidential aspirant indicate.

One thing that seems clear in the wake of this sun-washed post-election Republican Governors Conference in Miami: If Sarah Palin makes a run for the White House in 2012, she’s going to have to overcome, as she did in Alaska, a “good ol’ boy network” that may not yet be comfortable with a Republican star in lipstick. Despite Hillary Clinton’s and her supporters’ charges of sexism during her primary run, nobody stepped in front of her to end one of her press conferences.

Palin chose not to have in Miami a Reagan-esque New Hampshire moment by saying something akin to “I’m paying for this microphone,” but that moment may come if anybody ever again tries to get between Sarah Palin and the national media — or something else she wants.