It's been said that years from now, future Minnesotans will look back with amazement that we once had the temerity to elect a former pro wrestler as governor. But it's quite likely that they'll view the Pawlenty years with equal wonder. It won't just be that after a century of progressive, populist governors, we voted in a conservative who's the figurehead for a radical right movement. It won't just be that he has demanded the most draconian budget cuts in recent memory. It won't just be that many of Minnesota's long-fabled social programs have been gutted under his watch. It will be that in spite of all of this, Pawlenty remains a popular figure with the public and the press. More than a year into his term, his approval ratings still hover around 70 percent. And, more miraculously, he has remained relatively unscathed in the local editorial pages. All of this can be chalked up to Pawlenty's nice-guy persona, a myth from day one that seems to grow the more he commits what normally would be seen as acts of political evil. In short, the gov's got everyone hoodwinked, and it's not far-fetched that he'll enjoy multiple terms at the Capitol, or maybe even a stint or two as a U.S. senator. Let it be said that Pawlenty strikes some of us as an asshole. That he continues to get away with it makes him, in the best and worst sense, a masterful politician.


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