Though Pataki is a thrice-elected governor of the large, liberal, northeastern state of New York – no small feat for a Republican – his candidacy would have been difficult to justify, politically and strategically, says Brian Carso, a professor of history and government at Misericordia University in Dallas, Pa., who served three years in the Pataki administration.
“I just don’t see a compelling rationale for his candidacy,” Professor Carso said in an interview before Pataki decided not to run.
For starters, Pataki's record on the issues important to Republican primary voters wouldn’t have gotten him far, says Ford O’Connell, director of the Virginia-based Civic Forum PAC. “Being a pro-choice, pro-gay-union candidate with union ties is not a winner with the Republican electorate,” he says.
Indeed, Pataki’s moderate stance on social issues is at odds with the current mood of the tea party-tippling GOP base and would not have inspired much support in a nominating contest.
If Pataki were to run as a fiscal conservative, it probably wouldn’t have gotten him far, either. Spending and state income taxes swelled during the governor’s three terms in office, with an average spending increase of 6.3 percent per year during his first six years. In 2006, near the end of his term, the libertarian Cato Institute gave him a ‘D’ for fiscal policy. Pataki would have been hard-pressed to defend his policies at a time when the GOP is more antitax and antispending than ever.