While not questioning the motives behind Sarah Palin's resignation, Gov. Tim Pawlenty, (R-Minn.), argued on Monday that the Alaska governor's decision to step down abruptly from her post was further evidence that the GOP needs a drastic makeover.
The Minnesota Republican even offered a sport analogy to counter Palin's bizarre metaphor that she was merely a political point guard, passing the ball of progress to the state's lieutenant governor in light of a full-court press by the media.
"I think Gov. Palin is going to continue to be a strong voice and a leader for the Republican Party," Pawlenty told Fox News. "She is very popular, not only in her home state, but in the party across the country. But it is another question mark for a party that is clearly in a rebuilding year. If we were a sports team, if I was the manager or the coach sitting here, we would say we got to get some new draft picks, we are going to have to make some trades, do some things differently, because we are clearly in a rebuilding process."
Coming from Pawlenty, the remarks, however tempered, are noteworthy. Like Palin, he is rumored to have his eye on the 2012 Republican presidential nomination. Pawlenty, however, has pledged to serve out the remainder of his term before stepping away from office -- a year-and-a-half of service that could become a point of differentiation between the two in a possible primary.
The Minnesota Republican could have taken sharper swipes at his potential opponent. Gov. Ed Rendell, D-Penn., accused Palin of abandoning her state. Pawlenty himself let loose on Gov. Mark Sanford, (R-S.C.), for his marital infidelities, calling the South Carolinian "troubling and hypocritical."
But to whack Palin from within the Republican Party is to risk offending her huge base of devotees. Instead, Pawlenty insisted that the public had to "take her at face value in terms of what she said," and respect her record, however brief.
"I think she has been a remarkable leader for Alaska," said Pawlenty. "I have a lot of respect for Gov. Palin. I think she has done a remarkable job for Alaska as governor. But I think that she feels she has done all the she can there and so it is time for her to turn the page in her particular circumstance. And so, we wish her well.
"I haven't spoken to her recently," he went on. "But I did watch her statement and her comments carefully. And I think we just take them at face value. She said these things, these distractions, are getting in the way of her ability to govern and make a difference in Alaska. And so she felt it was better to step aside. And we have to respect her decision in that regard."