The similarities between Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s abandonment of his deer in northern Minnesota and his departure from the office of governor of this state couldn’t be more striking. He leaves both of them gut-shot and wounded.

GERALD M. RANDALL, ANOKA

Minnesotans got another reminder of the damage wrought by Governor Gutshot (h/t to Spotty for that moniker) in last Friday’s paper:

The last person Gov. Tim Pawlenty may want to see rising to speak these days is Tom Stinson, a slightly hunched-over figure with a monotone delivery who, nonetheless, is much in demand.

For two decades Stinson has been the state’s economist, delivering good news when times were fat and bad news that once led Gov. Rudy Perpich to claim he could do a better job because Stinson was too pessimistic.

In an office piled high with economic charts and devoid of a single picture, Stinson these days is delivering an even more unpleasant dose of news that once again puts him at odds with the state’s top elected official.

Minnesota faces a never-before-seen "structural budget deficit" that reaches far into the future, Stinson warns — a phenomenon wrought by an aging workforce and slowing revenue growth that will hamper the state’s ability to provide the services taxpayers have come to expect. There are no short-term answers, he said, and no single approach, such as tax increases or spending cuts, will by itself solve the problem.

That ominous message sets Stinson, a contract employee who earns $101,271, squarely against Pawlenty, who rapidly is becoming a national figure largely on the strength of his no-taxes, leaner-government philosophy.

It gets worse, both for us and for Gutshot. Per Stinson, the only reason things aren’t much worse is because of the Federal stimulus money Obama sent our way — stimulus money that Smilin’ Tim, eager to curry favor with Republican primary voters for 2012, pooh-poohed heavily even as he helped himself to it.

This is not the message our absentee governor wants following him around as he tries to talk up what a lovely job he’s done to the Iowa caucus voters.

For years now, Pawlenty’s been able to pull off the Artful Dodge of causing horrific budgetary problems, in classic Grover Norquist style, yet avoid being blamed for them. But no amount of smiling or mullet-tossing or hockey-stick-waving will get Governor Gutshot out of this one. The deer he’s wounded has left a trail a mile wide, and it leads straight back to him.