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I answered my own question in typical form
I was careful to ensure:
1. I'm running the 32-bit version of Python 2.7 (validated by starting up the command line console - version info is in the banner that comes up initially)
2. I'm using the 32-bit version of the windows SDK
3. AND THE KICKER: install the (x86) version of the Microsoft Visual Basic 2013 Redistributables (https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=40784). Initially I was installing the x64 version because the VM i'm using is running 64-bit Windows Server 2008...
I also verified the same x86 version of the MS VB Redistributables works for 64-bit python and the 64-bit Tableau SDK.