Another 2012 hopeful breaks with GOP

Tim Pawlenty endorses a third-party candidate over the Republican choice in a congressional race

By Alex Koppelman

Published October 26, 2009 7:50PM (EDT)

When it came time to choose its candidate to run in a special election in New York's 23rd congressional district, the Republican Party picked Dede Scozzafava. Only problem is, it seems like very few prominent Republicans agree with the decision. Scozzafava did get an endorsement from former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, but conservative activists think of the nominee as too liberal, and heavyweights like former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and former House Majority Leader Dick Armey have been endorsing a third-party choice, Doug Hoffman.

Now, add one more big name to the list: Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty. He may not be a household name -- yet -- but Pawlenty's a high-profile candidate for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012, and his decision to endorse Hoffman is yet another sign of how powerful the conservative wing of the GOP has become.

Not long ago, Pawlenty was waffling, trying to avoid coming down on either side in the race. But he apparently saw the light, and in a statement released Monday, he too put his weight behind Hoffman. The move seems like pure presidential politics -- in order to win the nomination, Pawlenty has to remain in activists' good graces, and angering them so early by endorsing Scozzafava could have hurt him. Even the choice of venue for the announcement was significant; Pawlenty sent his statement first to RedState, a Republican blog in the mold of DailyKos.

Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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2009 Elections 2012 Elections Doug Hoffman Tim Pawlenty War Room