Despite credentials that put him at the top of the Republican field of presidential candidates, Governor Pawlenty was the first to show himself the door. Why?
Tim Pawlenty has spent virtually his entire adult life methodically and systematically climbing the political ladder. Born in St Paul, Minn. Pawlenty earned his undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Minnesota and then settled in suburban Eagan where he was appointed to the city planning commission. At age 28, he was elected to the city council. From there, it was on to the Minnesota legislature for 10 years; ultimately elevated to the post of majority leader. In 2002 Pawlenty was elected governor of Minnesota and re-elected in 2006. The following year he became head of the National Governor’s Conference.
The first whispers of Pawlenty’s dream to become President of the United States surfaced in 2005 and it is clear that the bug had bitten as he began to take actions to gain national prominence. In 2008 he stepped on to the national stage as a strong supporter of John McCain and there were credible reports that he was on the short-list to be McCain’s running mate. Both cursed and blessed by not being picked (It must have been a blow to the ego to have someone like Sarah Palin picked over him!) Pawlenty continued to plot his way toward May 2011 when he announced his candidacy for president, based on a solidly conservative platform.
The stars seemed aligned for Pawlenty to become a serious, if not formidable, candidate for the nomination. He was obviously a “good guy” with a clean and consistent record. Though afflicted with the charisma of soggy white bread, he had patiently paid the price and learned the process of government. He was conservative, but not dogmatically so. Within the bounds of compromise needed in a functioning government, he had established a solid conservative portfolio that would seem to play well within a party dominated by conservative activists. Pawlenty’s philosophy, background and experience did not have to take a backseat to any of the plethora of early candidates for the Republican nomination.
But it was not enough. On August 14, 2011 – not even five months after announcing his candidacy – Pawlenty finished third in an inconsequential Iowa straw-poll vote and became the first candidate to withdraw from the race. This action is perplexing because the Iowa poll had about as much impact and validity on the 2012 presidential race as the election of a church Bingo captain. When you take into account that the “winner” of the poll was the insignificant and bat-brained Michele Bachmann, there is even more reason to ignore such frivolous activity. And yet it drove Pawlenty from the race as a loser.
It must be frustrating for Pawlenty to now be only a witness to the topsy-turvy nature of the Republican nomination process. You can almost feel his painful desire to crawl under a rock when he appears on television now – not as a candidate, but as a surrogate for Mitt Romney. And when the interviewer suggests that — had Pawlenty just hung in there, he might now be the perfect alternative to Romney and Gingrich — you can easily sense the criticism stings the front-runner-turned-has-been. After all, Pawlenty has had to stand by and watch as candidate after candidate – all with less substance, experience and electability than he – rises in the campaign polls.
Pawlenty’s claim was that he didn’t have the money to continue the campaign, but that was simply the type of lame excuse offered by losers. The only candidate who did have a large cache of cash for the campaign was Romney; then later Perry. And look at what all that cash has done for their campaigns. Bachmann, Cain, Huntsman, Santorum and even Gingrich each faced the same, if not even more significant challenges raising money; yet none of them tucked their tails between their legs and cowered off in the corner at the first sign of difficulty. The truth is that while Pawlenty might have had the qualifications, talent and experience to be president, he didn’t have the guts for the fight. He wanted to win the prize, but didn’t have the burning desire and passion needed to face the challenges, roadblocks, failures and resistance that comes with achieving success. At the first sign of difficulty, he whimpered and quit. There were no assurances that Pawlenty would have eventually prevailed and achieved the nomination or that if so, he would have won the election. But one thing is assured now and that is that he won’t get the nomination and has no chance of being elected president.
There’s a Lesson Here for All of Us
Fortunately, one good thing that can come out of Pawlenty’s aborted presidential campaign is that he can serve as a role model for what not to do if you want to succeed in any endeavor.
The lesson is this: Adversity is an ever-present factor in life, government and business. The only thing guaranteed to be found on the yellow brick road to success is adversity. Adversity is really a test to see how serious we are about achieving our stated goals. No one likes adversity and if they say they do, they are lying. But the truth is that winners welcome adversity, because they know that if they are not encountering adversity in the effort to achieve goals, then they are not really in the game.
The difference between winners and losers is that losers are overwhelmed by adversity, while winners constantly seek to overwhelm adversity. There are many who try and fail, but they are not really losers because they hang in there and fight to the very last to overcome adversity. It may seem cruel to say, but Pawlenty is the real definition of a loser, because he allowed adversity to overcome him with barely a whimper of resistance. The reality is that character and true success are defined by how adversity is met and challenged, not by what is ultimately achieved. Success is in fact the reward for overcoming adversity.
And the Moral of the Story …
When the story of success is told, the tendency is to focus on what has been achieved. What is often overlooked is what had to be overcome to achieve the success. Adversity prepares winners for success. True and lasting success has as its foundation the building blocks of conquered adversity. Losers cower in the face of adversity. Winners are invigorated by adversity because they know that beyond it is the promise of success. Perhaps businessman and philanthropist W. Clement Stone said it best: “Every great man, every successful man, no matter what the field of endeavor, has known the magic that lies in these words: every adversity has the seed of an equivalent or greater benefit.” It’s too bad Tim Pawlenty didn’t learn that, but it is a good lesson for anyone in search of success.