Jack Welch ‘concerned’ Pawlenty’s economic plan ‘too aggressive to win the national election’

Alexis Levinson Political Reporter
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Jack Welch, the former CEO of GE who praised Tim Pawlenty’s economic plan last week, dialed back his support a little Monday morning on CNBC, saying that while he still really liked the plan, he was worried it would make it tough for Pawlenty to get elected in a general election.

“I’m concerned that his tax policy is too aggressive to win the national election,” Welch said after Pawlenty spoke on the show. “I love the plan, I love the vision, I love the exceptionalism idea, I love his background, I love what he’s done as a governor. I’m just afraid in the general election – no estate tax, his very low tax rates – it just makes the country say wait a minute, are the fat cats getting it again? We got to appeal to a broad independent voter in the middle.”

Pawlenty, who appeared on Squawk Box at Welch’s invitation, continued to push his economic plan aggressively, despite the misgivings that some have expressed. Asked to respond to the criticism that five percent growth for ten years is “unrealistic,” and that without that growth, the tax cuts Pawlenty suggested would not be possible, Pawlenty was uncompromising.

“One of the leading economists, John Taylor from Stanford, looked at this plan and said it’s achievable. It’s aggressive and bold. If we came out of the Reagan recession or the recession from Carter and the Reagan recovery had 7% and for the number of years had 5% and did it again under Clinton, I don’t agree with the proposition we’ll accept anemic growth,” Pawlenty said.

“Now is it aggressive? Yes. Is it aspirational? Yes. The leader of this country needs to have a positive, bold, optimistic goal. Number two it’s not like what they’ve done in the past where they cut taxes and raise spending. We’re cutting taxes and dramatically cutting spending as well and more than balances often years,” Pawlenty continued.

Giving what may be a preview of how Pawlenty will present himself in the debate Monday night in New Hampshire, the candidate alluded to his criticism of RomneyCare on Sunday, when he coined the term ‘ObamneyCare,’ and said that what people said now was less important than their record.

(Pawlenty econ plan gets praise from business community)

“All the republicans will say many of the same things,” Pawlenty said. “We’re all for cutting taxes, reducing spending, market base instead of government based health reform, being tough on terrorism. The real question isn’t can people stand in front of an audience and mouth the same word. The real question is who has done this stuff? Who has the leadership experience of running a large organization in challenging times and getting results, and who has the fortitude to take some hits and keep going? The next president will have to do some difficult things. I’ve done that as a governor of a very liberal state. I brought it into a conservative direction.”

Pawlenty dismissed criticism leveled at him by Michele Bachmann, a representative of his home state of Minnesota, as simply due to the fact that they’re competitors in the race for the Republican nomination.

“I’ve been at this as an executive. I run a large organization in crisis and moved the needle not in terms of giving speeches or offering amendments but delivering results. That’s not in reference to Michele Bachmann, that’s one of the strengths I bring to the table compared to most of the rest of the field,” Pawlenty added, taking what could be seen as a veiled swipe at Bachmann’s record.

Pawlenty added that he was the one candidate who could unite the various factions of the conservative movement, instead of just having support from one group.

“I’m the one candidate in the race who can appeal to the whole conservative coalition,” Pawlenty concluded. “It consists of economic conservatives, tea party conservatives, social conservatives, national defense security conservatives. And if we’re doing to have a united effort towards the first step in beating Barack Obama, you have to appeal to that whole spectrum. Most of the rest of the candidate in the republican field will appeal primarily to one of those categories but not all four or five. I can and I have.”