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Can Pawlenty Launch a Sam's Club Presidential Campaign from a Target State?

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Minnesota ranks #33 in the nation in Sam's Club & Wal-Mart stores per capita, and ranks #1 for Target; no other rumored 2012 GOP presidential candidate hails from a Top 15 "Target State"

It was nearly a decade ago when Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty first told GOP activists that the Party needed to be, "The party of Sam's Club, not just the country club."

That message - which reminds the Party that its members demand value from the government for their taxpayer dollars (and that the GOP should focus on bread and butter issues) - has followed Pawlenty on the campaign trail ever since and stuck with him particularly in the national media.

For example, during the period of deep reflection by the Republican Party after losing big to the Democrats for the second consecutive election cycle in November 2008, Pawlenty appeared on Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace, who twice brought up the Sam's Club reference. Pawlenty explained:

"We should get back to having a federal constitutional requirement -- or at least a statutory requirement -- that the federal budget be balanced. That's first and foremost for our party. And people in Sam's Club understand that. They have to live on a budget and they expect their government to, as well." (November 16, 2008)

But after years of advancing the symbol of Sam's Club Republicans, why hasn't this image resonated for Pawlenty with the American public?

At this early stage in the 2012 presidential 'campaign,' Pawlenty is taking a backseat to a pool of other potential candidates who played prominent roles in the 2008 race, and thus enjoy much better name recognition (e.g. Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin, Ron Paul, and Mike Huckabee).

For example, last month's CNN survey of Republican and Republican-leaning independents found Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty in a tie for 7th place in early 2012 GOP horserace polling. At just 2 percent, Pawlenty trailed Mike Huckabee (24 percent), Mitt Romney (20 percent), Sarah Palin (15 percent), Newt Gingrich (14 percent), Ron Paul (8 percent), and Rick Santorum (3 percent). Indiana Congressman Mike Pence also received 2 percent.

But perhaps there is also a fundamental disconnect for Republican voters with the Sam's Club Republican metaphor when delivered by Pawlenty - a Minnesotan.

First, the Gopher State (most recently known nationally for electing the liberal Senator Al Franken) does not spring to mind when thinking of Sam's Club and its parent company, Wal-Mart. Rather, Minnesota is the headquarters for Wal-Mart's chief competitor: Target.

In fact, a Smart Politics analysis of Target and Wal-Mart corporate data finds that while Minnesota naturally leads the nation in the number of Target stores per capita, it ranks only #33 in the nation for Sam's Club and Wal-Mart.

And yet, Pawlenty chose Sam's Club, not Target, for his lynchpin message.

One reason Pawlenty may continue to hammer away at his Sam's Club rhetoric (in addition to the clever word play when paired with 'country club') is that there are far more Wal-Mart and Sam's Club stores nationwide (4,305) than Target (1,739).

Moreover, Target's ad campaigns (the visuals, the music, the style) evoke an image that is slicker, less rural, and less conservative than the image branding of Wal-Mart and Sam's Club.

To be sure, states topping the list for the highest number of Wal-Mart and Sam's Club stores per capita are either deep red or purple turning red.

After Arkansas (home to Wal-Mart's corporate office), some of the states with the highest per capita rates of Wal-Mart and Sam's Club stores are Oklahoma (#2), Mississippi (#3), Alabama (#4), Kansas (#5), North Dakota (#7), Kentucky (#8), West Virginia (#9), and Louisiana (#10).

No deep blue state even cracks the Top 15, with Maine the highest at #16.

The other states in the Top 15 are a mixture of red and purple states: New Hampshire (#6), Missouri (#11), Wyoming (#12), New Mexico (#13), Iowa (#14), and Tennessee (#15).

Most of the rumored 2012 GOP presidential hopefuls come from states in which Wal-Mart and Sam's Club have made a greater footprint than in Pawlenty's Minnesota, which has 1 store per 70,546 residents:

· Mike Huckabee, Arkansas, #1 (1 store per 29,744 residents)
· Haley Barbour, Mississippi, #3 (1 per 40,255)
· Mike Pence, Indiana, #17 (1 per 53,586)
· Ron Paul, Texas, #21 (1 per 54,914)
· Sarah Palin, Alaska, #23 (1 per 57,191)
· Newt Gingrich, Georgia, #29 (1 per 61,302)

Only Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania (#37, 1 per 83,545 residents) and Mitt Romney of Massachusetts (#46, 1 per 135,374 residents) come from states with a lower Wal-Mart / Sam's Club presence than Minnesota.

States with the Highest Number of Wal-Mart and Sam's Club Stores Per Capita

Rank
State
Wal-Mart
Sam's Club
Total
Per capita
1
Arkansas
89
7
96
29,744
2
Oklahoma
103
8
111
32,814
3
Mississippi
66
7
73
40,255
4
Alabama
101
13
114
40,894
5
Kansas
61
7
68
41,208
6
New Hampshire
27
4
31
42,445
7
North Dakota
12
3
15
42,765
8
Kentucky
91
8
99
43,124
9
West Virginia
37
5
42
43,202
10
Louisiana
90
12
102
43,243
11
Missouri
119
16
135
43,790
12
Wyoming
10
2
12
44,389
13
New Mexico
37
7
44
45,099
14
Iowa
58
8
66
45,493
15
Tennessee
114
16
130
47,807
16
Maine
22
3
25
52,658
17
Indiana
103
16
119
53,586
18
South Carolina
74
9
83
53,973
19
Nebraska
30
3
33
54,043
20
Nevada
41
7
48
54,170
21
Texas
371
72
443
54,914
22
Utah
41
8
49
55,845
23
Alaska
9
3
12
57,191
24
South Dakota
12
2
14
57,442
25
North Carolina
136
22
158
58,370
26
Wisconsin
83
12
95
59,242
27
Colorado
67
15
82
60,237
28
Arizona
92
15
107
60,749
29
Georgia
136
22
158
61,302
30
Montana
13
2
15
64,496
31
Ohio
144
29
173
66,393
32
Florida
231
43
274
66,892
33
Minnesota
61
13
74
70,546
34
Virginia
93
16
109
71,276
35
Illinois
148
28
176
73,304
36
Idaho
19
1
20
76,191
37
Pennsylvania
126
23
149
83,545
38
Delaware
9
1
10
87,309
39
Michigan
87
26
113
88,526
40
Connecticut
33
3
36
97,257
41
Maryland
44
12
56
100,600
42
Rhode Island
9
1
10
105,079
43
Washington
49
3
52
125,947
44
Oregon
30
0
30
126,335
45
Hawaii
8
2
10
128,820
46
Massachusetts
46
2
48
135,374
47
New Jersey
53
10
63
137,820
48
Vermont
4
0
4
155,318
49
California
177
33
210
175,032
50
New York
93
16
109
178,810
 
Total
3,709
596
4,305
72,697
Compiled from Wal-Mart corporate data by Smart Politics. Store data updated April 2010. Based on 2008 U.S. Census population estimates.

Minnesota, with its 73 Target stores (and corporate headquarters in Minneapolis), ranks #1 in Target stores per capita, with one store for every 71,512 residents.

Pawlenty, meanwhile, is the only rumored GOP 2012 presidential hopeful who comes from a 'Target-heavy' state.

In fact, only one other potential 2012 candidate hails from a state ranked in the Top 20 of Target stores per capita.

· Ron Paul, Texas, #19 (1 store per 164,371 residents)
· Newt Gingrich, Georgia, #22 (1 per 176,104)
· Mike Pence, Indiana, #25 (1 per 193,236)
· Mitt Romney, Massachusetts, #28 (1 per 196,908)
· Rick Santorum, Pennsylvania, #31 (1 per 210,988)
· Sarah Palin, Alaska, #33 (1 per 228,764)
· Mike Huckabee, Arkansas, #46 (1 per 356,924)
· Haley Barbour, Mississippi, #49 (1 per 489,770).

The fact that Wal-Mart and Sam's Club would not have a strong presence in the state that is home to Target's headquarters is not surprising, just as it is not surprising the state home to Wal-Mart (Arkansas) would have a low presence for Target.

But it is Pawlenty himself, hailing from the Target State, who created the Sam's Club GOP symbol - many years before he burst onto the national political scene when he survived the Democratic tsunami in 2006.

And while Sam's Club might be an attractive metaphor for a rising GOP star because states with strong GOP bases are the most heavily populated by its (and Wal-Mart's) stores, in the end it is Target States that determine presidential elections.

Several of the states with the largest number of Target stores per capita are perennial battleground states: Minnesota (#1), Colorado (#2), Iowa (#5), Nevada (#6), Virginia (#8), Florida (#9), and New Hampshire (#10).

Thus, a new, more Target-centric mantra might just be the best strategy for whomever becomes the 2012 Republican nominee.

And perhaps that is why Governor Pawlenty broadened his rhetorical net in his 2010 CPAC address in February:

"Or you know, they're from places like the heartland, not -- you know, they don't hang out at our Chablis-drinking, Brie-eating parties in San Francisco. You know, they're a little rough around the edges and they've got these homemade signs. And they don't, you know, dress like us. And they actually enjoy shopping at Wal-Mart and Target -- Sam's Club Republicans." (emphasis added)

States with the Highest Number of Target Stores Per Capita

Rank
State
Stores
Per Capita
1
Minnesota
73
71,512
2
Colorado
42
117,606
3
Nebraska
14
127,388
4
Arizona
48
135,420
5
Iowa
22
136,480
6
Nevada
19
136,851
7
Montana
7
138,206
8
Virginia
56
138,734
9
Florida
126
145,463
10
New Hampshire
9
146,201
11
Kansas
19
147,481
12
Illinois
86
150,018
13
California
244
150,642
14
Wisconsin
37
152,107
15
Maryland
36
156,489
16
North Dakota
4
160,370
17
South Dakota
5
160,839
18
Missouri
36
164,211
19
Texas
148
164,371
20
Michigan
60
166,724
21
Connecticut
20
175,063
22
Georgia
55
176,104
23
Ohio
63
182,316
24
Washington
35
187,121
25
Indiana
33
193,236
26
Tennessee
32
194,215
27
North Carolina
47
196,222
28
Massachusetts
33
196,908
29
Oregon
19
199,477
30
New Jersey
43
201,922
31
Pennsylvania
59
210,988
32
New Mexico
9
220,484
33
Alaska
3
228,764
34
Alabama
20
233,095
35
Utah
11
248,766
36
South Carolina
18
248,878
37
Idaho
6
253,969
38
Oklahoma
14
260,169
39
Rhode Island
4
262,697
40
Maine
5
263,291
41
Wyoming
2
266,334
42
Louisiana
15
294,053
43
West Virginia
6
302,411
44
New York
64
304,536
45
Kentucky
13
328,403
46
Arkansas
8
356,924
47
Hawaii
3
429,399
48
Delaware
2
436,546
49
Mississippi
6
489,770
50
Vermont
0
N/A
 
Total
1,739
208,183
Compiled from Target corporate data by Smart Politics. Based on 2008 U.S. Census population estimates.

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2 Comments


  • Traditionally, the Republican nomination goes to the "next man in line." Trouble is, it’s hard to figure out who that next man is--or if it even is a man. Is Sarah Palin next in line by virtue of her ’08 vice presidential candidacy, or are Mike Huckabee or Mitt Romney, given the number of states they picked up in last year’s primaries?

    With all due respect to Pawlenty, a president he is not. Mr Pawlenty is at best running for a spot on the VP ticket I would suggest that after he "pens" his forth coming book, we will be able to see the level of interest in his politics and "story" by the sales numbers of the book, not counting the presolds that go to various political organizations and corporate donors. Pawlenty is a nice "native son" story, but he doesn't have the recognition on a national level and more importantly, where is the money going to come from?

    Two words: Jeb Bush. His name is curiously absent from all these discussions. He would be able to raise the money to be remain competitive against what could be a $1 billion Obama operation--and I wonder if any candidate other than Palin or Romney can possibly compete. And, of course, Bush would pose a problem for Democrats in Florida. Yes, GW Bush did way too much brand damage not only to the GOP but the Bush family, and Obama’s victory in last year’s primary was aided by anti-dynasty sentiments. But two years is a long time from now.

  • more likely relationship:

    Walmart- started in small town in the South. Target started in big city in the North. They expanded...first the the areas around them and what they knew (small town or larger city).

    Yikes...I hope that blog post was in jest. Serious are there not better correlations?

  • Leave a comment


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