By Chris Cillizza and Aaron Blake, Washington Post, April 14, 2011 7:31 AM ET
Tim Pawlenty has signed Jon Lerner as the pollster for his soon-to-be-announced presidential campaign, the latest in a string of high-profile hires for the former Minnesota governor.
“I took a lot of time to look at the candidates and the records of the candidates in the field,” said Lerner in an interview with The Fix. “The more I looked at it, the more I was impressed with what Tim Pawlenty was able to do in Minnesota.”
Lerner is one of the lowest-profile consultants in Washington but has a long list of wins under his belt. In the 2010 cycle, he helped elect Sens. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah), as well as Govs. Nikki Haley (R-S.C.) and Sean Parnell (R-Alaska). Lerner has also long been involved with the Club for Growth’s political activities.
Like Pawlenty, Lerner spent his formative years in Minnesota, but the two men’s paths never crossed before last year. (Pawlenty served as the vice chairman of the Republican Governors Association, and Lerner was one of the organization’s lead consultants.)
Lerner explained that he was drawn to Pawlenty because of his belief that the governor can effectively articulate the economic message so central to most GOP primary voters.
“The candidate who becomes the nominee of our party is the one who can most credibly speak to the cluster of voters that are heavily motivated by economic and size-of-government concerns, and Tim Pawlenty’s record and positions on those issues are very compelling,” said Lerner.
Lerner joins a rapidly-expanding senior political team for Pawlenty that includes Nick Ayers, the campaign manager, and Jon Seaton, the political director — moves that should put to rest any lingering doubts about whether the former governor is running for president.
The hirings, while largely ignored by most voters, will almost certainly build on the positive buzz for Pawlenty in the political chattering class. Success in the staff chase shows seriousness and, Pawlenty hopes, will help drive donors to invest in his campaign.
The next few months — the second fundraising quarter ends on June 30 — will be critical for Pawlenty to translate that positive buzz into actual dollars.