TIM PAWLENTY? I'm getting suspicious.

I'm starting to think that the Obama machine pays people to say they're running for president, as Pawlenty just did late Sunday. More on him in a bit.

Maybe it's done on a scale. The longer you're in, the more you get. Maybe it's not money, but something you want: attention so that you can become a pundit, a moment of fame to sell a book or TV program.

How else to explain the Gong Show that's passing for Republican politics? Its in-and-out nature suggests GOP stands for "Get out Pronto."

Haley Barbour's gone. Mike Huckabee's gone. Donald Trump's gone.

Mitch Daniels is out before he's in. Newt can't be far behind. Ron Paul's entertaining, as is pizza guy Herman Cain, but then so are Laurel and Hardy.

The Blooper Twins, Sarah and Michele, are going nowhere. I don't think anybody knows where former Louisiana Gov. Buddy Roemer is these day. And our own Rick Santorum, reportedly set to formally announce in two weeks, makes other dark horses, even Buddy, look like odds-on favorites.

I'm not alone in suggesting that the field is flat. New York magazine just published a profile of conservative Fox News genius/jillionaire Roger Ailes that portrays Ailes as unmoved by any Republican candidate. It says that he personally pushed Gov. Chris Christie to run. His Jerseyship declined - at least for now.

Former Utah governor and recent ambassador Jon Huntsman is intriguing, but it's much more the style of the GOP to go with the tried and failed.

Can't find someone named Bush or Dole? Find someone who's already run, namely Mitt Romney, the man with the (health) plan in Massachusetts that he now calls wrong for America.

Which gets me to Tim Pawlenty or, as his campaign website calls him, "T-Paw."

The former two-term Minnesota governor begins his quest with a "no-we-can't" theme. ("T-Paw" doesn't seem all that far from "t-party.")

In Iowa on Monday, he spoke against ethanol subsidies, this in a state where corn is king. In Florida yesterday, he spoke of trimming Social Security and Medicare, this in a state with the highest percentage of seniors in the nation. In New York on Friday, he's to speak against bailouts in a city where bailouts made Wall Street richer.

I'm not saying the guy is wrong. I'm saying "truth-telling" in politics isn't the best path to victory. Just ask another presidential candidate from Minnesota, Walter Mondale. He told the truth about taxes in '84 - went on to lose 49 states.

Pawlenty makes much of the fact that he's a conservative Republican who twice won in a liberal Democratic arena. He then won passage of tough anti-abortion laws, a strike battle against transit workers and veto fights to stop tax hikes.

He makes little of the fact that his state now faces a $5 billion deficit.

His "time for truth" video includes a slap at the president for "three years of fancy speeches" (a tact Hillary tried in '08) and offers to "change our country, and this time for the better" (which sorta suggests truth-telling only goes so far).

He's not the first Minnesotan to seek the White House. Democrats Mondale, Hubert Humphrey and Eugene McCarthy tried. Republican Gov. Harold Stassen tried nine times.

I'd note that the state bird is the common loon and just mention that Minnesotans also elected comedian/Sen. Al Franken and wrestler/Gov. Jesse Ventura.

I'm not sure what "T-Paw" brings to the party. I know that it's not sizzle. I know that it's not the kind of money that Mitt's bringing.

Unless, of course, someone from the other side is, you know, chipping in.

Send email to baerj@phillynews.com.

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