Pawlenty, Hatch, and the casino question

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Pawlenty, Hatch, and the casino question

There's more at stake here than $200 million for cash-starved state coffers

Yesterday Minnesota AG Mike Hatch issued an opinion calling unconstitutional the Pawlenty plan for partnering with northern Minnesota tribal governments to build a metro-area casino (Strib, Pi-Press).

Quite apart from the legal questions, the main drama here is political. The national GOP deems Pawlenty a rising star and possible presidential fodder in '08. (Proof, if you need it: Karl Rove will be here on April 8 to headline a T-Paw re-election fundraiser.) 

Pawlenty, in turn, needs the casino proceeds to patch the state's budget while appearing to remain true to his "no new taxes" pledge (since taxes on Indians, like those assessed through state fees, are apparently not real taxes), which is the sine qua non of his national popularity. If he can't pull off the deal, his chances for avoiding budgetary implosion long enough to get himself re-elected next year may be seriously diminished. And if he fails in that, no presidential bid in '08, obviously.

Enter Mike Hatch, who represents the DFL's best--only?--shot at defeating Pawlenty in '06. This is the most interesting, and consequential, political fight to shape up in Minnesota in some time.

(Distant runner-up: Michele Bachmann and company versus the evolution- and abortion-friendly round world.)

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