How Tim Pawlenty's Pastor Could Undermine His Candidacy

A brief guide to the views of Leith Anderson, the pastor who's close with Pawlenty

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Whenever Tim Pawlenty's placebo candidacy is brought up, it seems like his close relationship with pastor Leith Anderson is also discussed--specifically, whether or not the influential Evangelical pastor will undermine his candidacy. Previously, we've seen good arguments that he'll hurt Pawlenty's bid, that he'll help it and that he'll do niether. Drawing on these arguments, here's a cheat sheet to reasons why Leith Anderson is said to hurt Pawlenty's presidential bid, and why others think the notion is ridiculous:

How Anderson Might Hurt Pawlenty's Candidacy

  • He Thinks Global Warming Is Real - In 2006, when Anderson added his name to a high-profile group of Evangelicals who signed a "call to action" statement, the Associated Press described his support as being in favor of "strong government involvement" on the issue. While this is a pretty mild position for liberals, just ask Mitt Romney how it feels to be a GOP contender and acknowledge the existence of climate change. In a Religion News article published today, CNN contributor Erik Erickson noted that Pawlenty's "critics will attempt to capitalize on some of Leith Anderson's statements and stands, including his position on global warming."
  • He's Promoted a Soft Stance on Illegal Immigration - Unlike Pawlenty who, as Politico notes, advocated for the end of "birthright citizenship and punishing business violators" who employ illegal immigrants, Anderson's National Association of Evangelicals has tried to embrace Hispanics by arguing in favor of "comprehensive immigration reform"---including his support of a 2007 resolution calling for the "government to establish a fair process for undocumented immigrants already in the country to earn legal status and fair labor and civil laws for everyone."

How Anderson Doesn't Make a Difference--or Might Actually Help

  • His Views Appear to Be Right In Line With Mainstream Evangelicals - On one hand his views would seem to help Pawlenty in the early-state primary slog with social conservatives. Mother Jones blogger Tim Murphy once noted that the pastor "could be an asset" and insisted that he could appeal to the base "without compromising his ordinary-guy image by coming off as a culture warrior." On the other hand, by the time the general election rolls around, it may not be helpful to have a pastor who's used his prominent position to "to fight social conservatism's [high-profile] traditional battles against abortion and marriage equality," as Death and Taxes magazine concluded.
  • How Many People Will Actually Vote Based on What His Pastor Believes? - The Minnesota Star Tribune made this argument in an editorial earlier this month in response to the prediction that Pawlenty's pastor could become the next Jeremiah Wright. The newspaper points out that the pastor "still usually balks at talking about politics with the media," and writes:

Some political commentators speculate that Pawlenty will face hurdles drawing wide Republican support precisely because his pastor isn't from the far-right. Ironically, during the last presidential election, analysts ripped John McCain for his associations with far-right pastors....Presidential candidates rarely agree with every position taken by their religious denominations....Pawlenty's presidential ambitions may or may not have a prayer, but that should not be because of his pastor.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.